Etymology of Hygiene

We all know the term hygiene, in our office you don’t go a few hours without hearing it but have you ever wondered about where the word came from?

hygiene (n.)
Conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness.

Hygieia

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way their meanings have changed throughout history. The word hygiene comes from the French hygiène which in turn came from the New Latin hygieina and before that the Greek hygieinḕ(téchnē) or healthful (art). Ultimately though, at the end of the etymology trail, is Hygieia, daughter of Asclepius and goddess of cleanliness and sanitation.

Hygieia: Goddess of Health, Cleanliness and Sanitation

One of the five daughters of Asclepius, god of medicine, Hygieia is the personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation. As chief attendant to her father, she was more directly associated with cleanliness, how to live a long life and the prevention of sickness.

Hygieia is often depicted with a serpent wrapped around her arm or torso and a cup or chalice in her hand. These two icons together form the Bowl of Hygieia which is one of the symbols of pharmacy. The serpent is heavily associated with her father Asclepius, whose symbol of a serpent wrapped around a staff is used to represent medicine around the world to this day.

Statues of Hygieia were erected in all major healing centres and the cult of Hygieia (worshipping her as an independent goddess) started to spread around 400BC after the first appearance of the plague. She was depicted in the painting Medicine by Gustav Klimt, but only a handful of photographs of the painting exist. It was destroyed by a fire set by retreating German SS forces in 1945 at Schloss Immendorf castle in Austria.

In the manufacturing of food, beverage, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and other products, good hygiene is a critical component of quality assurance, that’s why companies across the country use the 3M Clean-Trace LM1 Hygiene Monitoring and Management System to verify their hygiene and cleaning procedures.

The system helps you quickly prepare for and pass your audits and is designed to give you peace of mind with improved accuracy and breakthrough technology. To learn more about the LM1 our team are on hand to help, give them a call on 01924 444577 or email hello@gemscientific.co.uk