Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-nê-sêg-no-si-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. (Pathology) Real or feigned ignorance of the presence of a disease. 2. (Psychology) The inability of someone to recognize their own disease or handicap.

Notes: Today's Good Word hasn't strayed far from the field of medicine, where it is used in the narrow sense of ignorance of hemiplegia "partial paralysis of one side of the body". However, psychiatrists now use it as a symptom of schizophrenia, so it seems to be moving into the lexical open. The adjective is anosognosic.

In Play: Here is a thought of R. Brain in his Speech Disorders. Aphasia, Apraxia and Agnosia (1961): "Since anosognosia means imperception of disease, it is now more generally applied to cover unawareness of hemiplegia, blindness, deafness and aphasia." This indicates the sense of this word is expanding. Why not release it into the general vocabulary? "Everyone agrees that Ida Claire has logorrhoea but her anosognosia prevents her from realizing it."

Word History: This word was created by the French neurologist Joseph Babinski and published in Revue Neurologique 27, 846 (1914). Babinski combined the Greek constituents a(n) "no, not" + noso(s) "disease" + gnos(is) "knowledge" + -ia, noun suffix. We know nothing about the origin of nosos. It occurs in only a few English loan words, such as nosology "the classification of diseases" and nosophobia "the fear of diseases" and zoonosis. It is unrelated to English nose. Gnosis is based on the PIE word gno- "to know", which underlies many English Latinate borrowings like ignorant, incognito, and cognizant. The Germanic languages have a problem with the initial gn-, so while it emerged in English know (with a silent K), it also underlies can and now defunct ken "to know". In German, we see it in kennen "to know" and können "can, be able". Sanskrit turned it into jna- "know", Russian, into znat' "to know", and Serbian into znati "to know".(Now a bow to Richard Schmeling, whose knowledge included today's rather arcane Good Word, for his generosity in sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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