Etymology of Abortion

An abortion is the calculated termination of a human pregnancy. Merriam-Webster describes abortion as a medical procedure that kills the fetus and brings an end to pregnancy. Abortion causes much controversy throughout the world. For exampled, in the United States, the Republican Party vehemently opposes abortion funding, while the Democratic Party supports abortion and contributes to women’s fundamental right to make informed decisions.

The English word abortion first appeared in the mid 16th century. Its origin is Latin: from aboriri/aborior (miscarry) – ab (from, away) + orior (to arise, grow) – to abortiō. This is explained in Walter W. Skeat’s An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. The word was originally intended to be used for all miscarriages, intentional or otherwise. When English first picked up the word, it was not abortion; it was simply abort. It was only in the late 19th century that abortion came to be associated with the intentional termination of human pregnancy.

Abortion in Spanish is aborto; in Dutch: abortus; in Portuguese: aborto; in Italian: aborto; in French: avortement; in German: abbruch.


CRAIG, John. A New Universal Etymological, Technological, And Pronouncing Dictionary Of The English Language, Etc. London, New York: N.p., 1858. Print.

Skeat, Walter W. An Etymological Dictionary Of The English Language. Newburyport: Dover Publications, 2013. Print.