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July 17, 1987

How the Sacrum Got Its Name

Author Affiliations

Dayton, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio

JAMA. 1987;258(3):325. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400030041020

To the Editor.—  The origin of the word sacrum in Latin usage may be based on faulty translation by the Romans of the Greek word hieron.1Hieron in ancient Greek means "holy" and "sacred," but also "strong," "vigorous," and "high." Hippocrates probably had this last definition in mind when he designated this bone hieron osteon, ie, "the protuberant, high bone." That was the interpretation of the Latin teacher in my gymnasium in Bavaria 45 years ago. He should have known—he was an outstanding scholar in classical languages.