The word syringe entered the English language in the early 15th century, from Late Latin syringa, which in turn came from the Ancient Greek word σύριγξ (syrinx), in the accusative forms of syringa (s), syringes (pl.) meaning a tube, hole, channel, shepherd’s pipe, related to syrizein meaning to pipe, whistle, hiss. While the first suction syringes were used as early as the Romans and were mentioned by no less an authority than Celsus, the syringe as we know it today wasn’t invented until 1844 when Irish doctor Francis Rynd used a hollow needle to make the first subcutaneous injections. A decade later in 1853, Charles Pravaz and Alexander Wood developed a medical hypodermic syringe with a needle fine enough to pierce the skin. Almost as soon as it was created, Wood’s wife became the first fatality of the modern syringe, self-administering a lethal dose of morphine. The syringe has been continually improved and remains one of the most important tools available to doctors.
The word evolved in English from its early use (15th-mid 18th centuries) to mean a tube or catheter for irrigating wounds to common use as a hypodermic needle around 1880.
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Image courtesy Virginia Commonwealth University, at their excellent flickr photo archive, used with permission under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.