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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 4, 2006


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2006;295(1):113. doi:10.1001/jama.295.1.113

Superstition is a rather illusive word to define, and yet if we go back to its etymologic derivation from the Latin it is not difficult to understand. It comes from the Latin word superstes—a survivor. Superstitions then are survivals from a previous set of beliefs or opinions in any department of thinking which still continue to have their influence over men's actions though they have lost their basis or supposed basis in truth because of the evolution of the department of thought in which they occur. In the old days when many phenomena that are now readily explicable on natural grounds were incapable of explanation, theories were invented, such as those of ghosts and witches, and these were supposed to afford the desired reasons for things which the human mind is always so prone to seek. Most of these beliefs have disappeared in the progress of modern science and of education, yet there are some people who still continue to be ruled or at least influenced by the survival of the old theories, that is, by superstitions.

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