July 5, 1985

Passing Out When Passing Urine

Author Affiliations

University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry New York

JAMA. 1985;254(1):54. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360010060010

To the Editor.—  The words we use in medical writing, and their meanings, change with time. In "Micturition Syncope: A Reappraisal," Kapoor et al1 used micturition to mean urination. Current editions of Webster's and the Oxford dictionary agree. A century ago, neither word, micturition or syncope, meant what it does today. Micturition, for most of its 260 years in print, was "the desire to make water; a morbid frequency in the voiding of urine." Using it for "the action of making water" was incorrect.2 Syncope meant "failure of the heart's action, resulting in unconsciousness, and sometimes death"; now those who only stand and faint also have syncope. The "twenty-dollar word" has replaced the "ten-center."3Both urination and micturition may be said to have their place. When Samuel Johnson failed to include them in his dictionary, he was left without either a conventional or a medically precise word