Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Dermato - The Skinny on Skin Words

A woman's bare neck
A model with skin
Photo by Gisela Giardino


Combining form. Before a vowel also dermat-.
Greek derma, dermat-, skin, hide, leather. Before a vowel also dermat-.

Relating to the skin.

When you think about it, skin is really important. Now I mean really important. Without it, we'd be a mess; all leaky and ick (and humans are pretty leaky as it is). Therefore, it's appropriate that English retains a proper prefix in dermato- for skin-related words. There's also dermo- and derma-. Really, anything that starts with derm is probably to do with the skin.

For example, dermabrasion is a medical treatment in which the superficial layers of skin are removed with (and I don't like the sound of this) "a rapidly revolving abrasive tool". There is also dermatoplasty, which is the surgical replacement of damaged or destroyed skin, and dermatosis, which is any non-inflammatory disease of the skin. These medical terms probably all come under the umbrella of dermatology, the science that deals with skin and skin disorders (the practitioner of which is, of course, a dermatologist).

Talking of science, one particularly interesting skin word is dermatoglyphics, which is defined as the science that deals with "skin patterns (e.g fingerprints), especially of the hands and the feet". Did you know, for example, that humans are not the only creature to possess fingerprints? A number of other species have them too, especially those that climb trees. In fact, the fingerprints of a koala are so similar to a human's as to be virtually indistinguishable. How's that for a dermatoglyphic fact?

And lastly, if you're not interested in talking medicine or science, but still want a good skinny chat, consider dermal or the considerably less appealing dermoid, which mean 'of the skin' and 'skin-like' respectively.

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