etymology of "apoptosis"

farmerj farmerj at byu.edu
Fri Oct 27 15:32:23 EST 1995


I had a long discussion about the meaning and pronunciation of 
"apoptosis" with a friend of mine who is an expert on New 
Testament and classical Greek.  Between us, we could not come 
up with a reasonable etymology for this word that would 
indicate that it means "cell death".  

Perhaps someone could enlighten us as to the correct etymology.

ptuso = spit

pipto (from ptuso) = fall down, fall

ptoma (pto + ma, from pipto) = fallen body, corpse (-ma is a 
diclensional ending, as is -sis)

apo = away from

apoptoma (apo + pto + ma) = eclipse, a falling down, a falling 
away from, a falling off, unlucky chance, disappearance, going 
out of sight

apoptos = seen, to be seen, out of sight, far away from

ptosis (pto + sis) = falling, a fall, death

So apoptoma might make sense, but apoptosis (apo + ptosis) 
would seem to mean "away from death"

By the way, he said that the correct pronunciation for 
apoptosis would be ah-pope'-tow-sis (short a sound, accent on 
second syllable)-- a pronunciation I haven't heard before.

Not knowing Greek myself, I may have made a mistake in my 
notes.  If so, blame me, not my friend.

James Farmer
Dept. of Zoology
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah 84602, USA





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