What are ‘enterotomes’?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: enterotomes…

When I encounter what appears to be a highly technical word — like enterotomes — my eyes tend to glaze over a little bit. In the past, I’d just skim by the intimidating collection of letters, assuming that I could figure out meaning by context. Or simply ignore it.

As a result of doing a weekly blog post on interesting words, however, I now celebrate whenever I stumble across such a term. A new entry for my word-of-the-week. Yahoo!

I recently encountered such a word in the book Luster by Raven Leilani.

Here is how Leilani used it:

She lingers, presses her finer against the seam. But from here she is all muscle memory, a moving artillery in a hazmat suit, the bone cutters and chisels and enterotomes moving in and out of her hands.

Enterotomes, it turns out, are a surgical cutting instrument for opening the digestive tract and especially the intestine. They are used, particularly, in post-mortem examinations.

(Incidentally, the photo at the top of this post shows random surgical instruments. To see enterotomes, specifically, go here. To me, they look a little like children’s safety scissors although, of course, they are much sharper and more useful than those.)

I had thought the word would be of Latin origin as so many medical terms tend to be. Instead, it is from the French, entérotome, meaning exactly the same thing in English (without the acute accent.) At its root, however, the word is combination of New Latin and Ancient Greek. Entero means relating to the intestines.

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