Anatomy word of the month: gallbladder

July 1, 2011 —

Gall is an Anglo-Saxon word for bile.  The gallbladder stores bile from the liver.  Bile is released into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, when triggered by a fatty meal.  Bile is from the Latin word for the secretion which also means “anger”.  Chole is the Greek word for bile (and wrath) found in medical terms like cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder). But what does bile have to do with anger, specifically, bitter anger, rancor?

Well, how about  “His stinging rebuke was full of bile” or “Mother leaving her entire estate to my stepsister was galling to me.”  All relate to rancor, and bile is very bitter.  These associations of bile relate to an ancient theory of “humors” in the body that supposedly influenced moods and health.

Someone who is ruddy-cheeked and cheerful has a “sanguine” (full of blood) disposition.  Someone who is sluggish is called “phlegmatic”, resembling the slow ooze of its namesake, phlegm.  Bile was categorized as yellow or black.  Too much yellow bile made one “choleric” (hot tempered).  A depressed person suffered from an excess of black bile, called “melancholy”.  Are you in a good humor today?


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