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February 2013

Boils, Berloques, and Blebs

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: University of Virginia School of Medicine (Mr Blechman) and Department of Dermatology, University of Virginia Health System (Dr Cropley), Charlottesville.

JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(2):150. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.1224

We use quite a few words to describe things that are bulbous or that swell up. There is blister, which derives from the Middle English blester, a loan word from Old French blestre, meaning a bump or swelling. Then, there is the word boil, which was byl in Old English. The verb form originates from the Latin bullire, meaning to bubble, which is related to the noun and familiar bulla, meaning a round or bulbous object.1 In addition to its medical uses, bulla is the name for a bubble-shaped amulet that is worn around the neck and for the round lead seal that is attached to papal bulls. Bleb has a similar meaning, and possibly a similar etymological origin, to bulla. Robert Willan (1757-1812) used both terms synonymously in his seminal morphological scheme for the classification of skin diseases. Also, a berloque (Modern French), or Berlocke (Modern German), is a round pendant that is worn around the neck, from which the condition berloque dermatitis, phototoxic pigmentation on the neck or chest from perfume, gets its name.

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