Phlebotomist? Plenipotentiary? Complex Job Titles Explained

2 min read

The next time you’re scrolling through LinkedIn profiles, you may want to bring a dictionary. These tricky titles do a good job of hiding what the person actually does. But when you peel back the layers of these hard-to-pronounce professions, the titles start to make a lot of sense. Maybe you have a secret desire to be a lepidopterologist, and you just didn't know the word!


If you suffer from sinus infections or hearing loss, your GP (general practitioner) might send you to an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist. But that specialist’s official title is actually "otolaryngologist." The name is derived from four equivalent Ancient Greek words – ous (ear), rhis (nose), larynx (throat) and logia (study). When you string these pieces together to represent this shoulders-up medical profession, the result is a job title that’s a downright tongue-twister, hence the acronym.


You’d be forgiven if you heard this job title and had no idea how to spell it out. Phlebotomists are involved in all things blood – including medical testing, transfusions, research, and blood donations. That tricky prefix "phlebo" is from the Greek phleb, meaning “vein,” which itself comes from the root word phlein, meaning to “gush or overflow.” Now you’ll finally be able to understand that joke about the phlebotomist and the vampire!


If you’ve ever undergone surgery, you’ve probably met an anesthesiologist (if you're British, throw an extra vowel in there: anaesthesiologist). This impressively long job title refers to medical professionals who administer anesthetics, or pain relievers and sedatives, before, during, or after surgery. Like many medical terms, the title is derived from a Greek word, this one referring to a loss of sensation – exactly what you’d want before lying down on an operating table.


In modern times, you’ll see this job title appended to ambassadors, diplomats, and state representatives engaged in foreign affairs. A plenipotentiary refers to someone invested with the full power of independent action on behalf of their government. It comes from two Latin words: plenus, meaning full, and potential, meaning power.


If you thought entomologist was difficult to spell, try this subset of researchers. Entomologists refer to people who study and collect bugs, while lepidopterologists are specialized entomologists who focus specifically on butterflies and moths. Ancient Greek words lepis (scale) and pteron (wing), paired with -logy (study), help this job title take flight.


Once you get the root word for this tricky medical profession, you’ll find it oh-so-much easier to say. The key here is epidemia, a Greek word which relates to the prevalence of disease, or in English, the word epidemic. Epidemiologists conduct lab research and study data to understand how diseases spread, with the ultimate goal of protecting humankind by implementing programs to prevent and treat outbreaks.

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