Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Post by John Barton » Sat Apr 09, 2005 1:25 am

Is this a real word? It's not in my Dorland's Medical Dictionary, which lists some 250,000 medical words. Nor in any dictionary I've so far found. Dorland gives 'cellular, cellule, cellulin, cellulitis, cellulose, cellulous' and at least ten similar words. Cellulite seems to be an invention of an imaginary tissue not known to doctors, by beauty parlours not wanting to lose clients by suggesing they had FAT. It seems to be a synonym for fat, unknown to ladies.Around 1960? One of those words like 'finalise', used by everyone except lexicographers.
Signature: John Barton, New Plymouth, New Zealand


Post by russcable » Sat Apr 09, 2005 7:47 pm

It's in all the "regular" dictionaries. Just because a word for a body part isn't in the medical dictionary doesn't make it not a "real" word. It's a particular kind of fat just under the skin with a lumpy appearance like cottage cheese particularly on the backs of the thighs and buttocks which doesn't often occur on men.


Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Apr 09, 2005 8:44 pm

John, Russ speaks the truth. CELLULITE first appeared in print in 1968 and derived from the French, meaning literally, accumulation of subcutaneous fat, cellulitis, from ‘cellule’ cell (from Latin ‘cellula,’ from ‘cella,’ cell + ‘-ula’ -ule) + ‘-ite,’ -it is.
<1968 “Like a swift migrating fish the word CELLULITE has suddenly crossed the Atlantic.”—‘Vogue,’ 15 April, Ibid. page 110/1, “In Europe treatments for cellulite vary from acupuncture . . . to sea baths.”>

<1969 “You scrub, either with a hard-core sponge from Switzerland . . . or a rather alarming double-action massage glove from France. This is said to combat that ugly, dimpled fat called CELLULITE.”—‘Daily Mail,’ 28 October, page 19/1>

<1970 71 “CELLULITE is that most unattractive fat that looks like orange rind when squeezed . . . Doctors object to the term as inaccurate.” [[maybe because they didn’t make it up themselves]]—‘Beautiful People’s Beauty Book’ (1971) by L. Avedon, page 71>

<1982 “Joujou lay back on the bed, having her CELLULITE messaged away.”—‘Lace’ by Shirley Conran, xxxvii. page 388>

<1983 “She proceeded to do her leg exercises. She has become obsessed by CELLULITE.”—‘Belle’ (Australia), July-August, page 6/4>
(Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary)

Ken G – April 9, 2004


Post by haro » Sat Apr 09, 2005 11:18 pm

The way the word 'cellulite' developed is a bit strange. I'm afraid there's not much usable stuff available in literature, and I've never gone into details, but here's what I recall: In German it appeared in print in the mid sixties, but then it was 'Zellulitis.' I very well remember my Mom feeling sick because of that term and the fact she had a lot of that "orange peel" surface look on her thighs. That was before I graduated and moved to Zurich, i.e. earlier than 1967.

Decades later, for no obvious reason, in German the word was altered to 'Cellulite', although that's just the French equivalent of "Zellulitis." Trouble is, no one here knows how to pronounce it, like French or English.

To make things even more complicated, the term itself, no matter what the ending, is downright wrong. According to world-wide terminology standards, a medical word with the ending '-itis' (or 'ite' in French) means a disease caused by an inflammation (arthritis, colitis, pulpitis, appendicitis etc.). Cellulite / cellulitis is quite the opposite. In other words, according to the same standards it ought to called a cellulosis, like arthrosis, pulposis, neurosis etc..

I suspect the term was invented by folks working with the cosmetics industry who didn't know much about medical terminology but wanted to scare the heck out of possible buyers of remedies to cure an inflammatory disease that didn't exist. Money rules the world and obviously also the creation of some words.
Signature: Hans Joerg Rothenberger

Re: cellulite

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:22 am

Cellulitis is a spreading inflammation of subcutaneous or connective tissue; it has nothing to do with cellulite as such. (See also the numerous definitions provided via OneLook.)

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