Caesarean section..

A Caesarean section, also spelled Caesarian or Cesarean and often without the upper case C, is the surgical delivery of a child. It is a term with an interesting etymology and lots of associated folklore.

The Birth of J. Caesar, 1506 woodcut from Suetonius's Lives of the Twelve CaesarsThe term comes from the name of Julius Caesar, who according to legend was delivered by this method. From R. Jonas’s 1540 translation of Roesslin’s Byrth of Mankynde:

They that are borne after this fashion be called cesares, for because they be cut out of theyr mothers belly, whervpon also the noble Romane cesar the .j. of that name in Rome toke his name.

Although this is where the term Caesarean comes from, this legend about Julius’s birth is almost certainly false. While surgical deliveries were known in ancient Rome, they invariably resulted in the death of the mother and Julius’s mother, Aurelia, lived well into her son’s adulthood. It is possible that one of Julius’ ancestors was delivered in this fashion and bequeathed the name to the family. Although Pliny reports that the name comes from caesaries, or hair, as the future dictator of Rome was born with a full head of hair.

The term Caesarian section dates to 1615, first appearing in Helkiah Crooke’s A Description of the Body of Man.

(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition; National Library of Medicine, Cesarean Section: A Brief History)

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