The physicians have a bill in Congress asking for the word "doctor" to be used only for physicians. So...I thought I'd look at the origin of the word.
Doctor comes from the Latin word docere, meaning to teach.
Here is what OED says for the first entry, regarding the evolution of the word:
1. a. A teacher, instructor; one who gives instruction in some branch of knowledge, or inculcates opinions or principles. (Const. of.) Now rare.
1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) II. 43 Seynt Austyn e firste doctour [= prothodoctor] of Englischemen. 1485 CAXTON Chas. Gt. 1 Saynt Poul, doctour of verite. 1548 UDALL, etc. Erasm. Par. Matt. i. 20 The heauenly doctour Christe Jesus. 1557 N. T. (Genev.) Matt. xxiii. 10 Be not called Doctors, for ther is but one your Doctor, and he is Christe. 1665 Phil. Trans. I. 73 One of the most zealous Doctors of the contrary Opinion. 1790 BURKE Fr. Rev. 32 These new Doctors of the rights of men. 1864 J. H. NEWMAN Apol. App. 77 St. Augustine..is the doctor of the great and common view that all untruths are lies.
While it says this definition is "rare" now, it is how it started. Later definitions continue to define it as a one who is skilled in any branch of knowledge or one who has authority or degrees conferred by a university. Though the sixth entry does specifically address a doctor of medicine:
6. a. spec. A doctor of medicine; in popular current use, applied to any medical practitioner. Also, a wizard or medicine-man in a primitive tribe.
[1377 LANGL. P. Pl. B. XVIII. 362 e bitternesse at ow hast browe brouke it i-seluen, at art doctour of deth, drynke at ow madest! c1386 CHAUCER Prol. 411 Wi vs ere was a Doctur of Phesike.] c1400 Lanfranc's Cirurg. 73 Of rasis auicen & galion & of oere doctouris. 1598 SHAKES. Merry W. III. i. 106 Shall I loose my Doctor? No: hee giues me the Potions and the Motions. 1699 DRYDEN Ep. to J. Driden 71 So liv'd our Sires, ere doctors learn'd to kill. 1725 DE FOE Voy. round World (1840) 182 Our doctors themselves (so we call the surgeons at sea). 1783 AINSWORTH Lat. Dict. (Morell) II, Veterinarius, a farrier, a horse doctor. 1858 Compendium of Kaffir Laws & Customs 123 Doctors are not entitled to fees, except a cure is performed, or the patient relieved. 1872 GEO. ELIOT Middlem. xv, A common country doctor. 1884 GILMOUR Mongols 180 They apply to the missionary in his capacity of doctor..and..want him only in so far as he is a doctor.
Does anyone know anything else about the etymology of the word "doctor?" It seems clear to me that it never was intended to only be used for medical doctors.
Some countries have government organziations which do just that: e.g., the Académie Française. In the States, only certain members of the public can say they're a lawyer, medical doctor, or military officer.
I agree that only people who have actually studied for a doctorate (and passed) should be entitled to call themselves 'doctor'. But the title does not only apply to medical doctors.
This may be an incorrect impression, but from American TV it seems that dentists often call themselves 'doctor'. Mosts dentists over here have not gained a doctorate, and are not referred to in that way. Do they count as 'physicians' for the purposes of the bill?
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
I know some medical physicists who work in radiation oncology departments. One of them, a German by birth, was at a hospital cocktail party when a coworker's wife approached. "So Dr. Schell, what is your specialty?" she asked. "I'm a medical physicist" he replied. "Oh!" she exclaimed, "I thought you were a real Doctor!". "I am a real Doctor" he replied, "your husband is a physician."
neveu, precisely my thoughts. I could understand if the word were the only one that specialty used, but they have the word physician, which clearly articulates who they are. Non-MDs never use that designation. So let's leave "doctor" as a graduate degree descriptor, though I've always wondered why lawyers never used it (with their Juris Doctorate); I'd think it would be right up their alley.
Well, well. How times change. Now the physicians have a resolution going forward at the AMA calling for using "physician" and not "doctor." Because "doctor" has gotten so confusing, the term "health care provider" is being used, and physicians hate that term (as do I). Physician is actually a prestigious word, with a fine history. I'd be all for this.
"Health care provider" would be far more confusing than "doctor"... does it mean the medical staff or the administrative staff or the business people or the whole organisation or the first-aider in the workplace or the guy who buys the medical supplies or any one of a hundred other vaguely health related things? That would be a ridiculous idea.
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
You've probably all heard the hullaballoo about Jill Biden calling herself "doctor." I do wish that Joseph Epstein (who has been spotted in coffee shops near us) would read Wordcraft and learn about the real etymology of the word "doctor." Physicians have no ownership of that word. They own the word "physician," period. End of story.