The Disease of the Moon: The Linguistic and Pathological Evolution of the English Term "Lunatic"

J Hist Neurosci. 2011 Jan;20(1):65-73. doi: 10.1080/0964704X.2010.481101.


The public opinion and the scientific community incorrectly believe that the English term "lunatic" was originally related only to insanity, but it also referred to epileptic people. The aim of this article is to clarify the original meaning of the English word "lunatic" by analyzing the evolution of the relationship between psychiatric and neurological diseases and by pointing out the influence of the moon in the history of medicine, in popular traditions, and in English literature. The article also contains a detailed and accurate review of the modern scientific literature on the relationship between moon and epilepsy/psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy / history*
  • Europe
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Moon*
  • Names*
  • Psychiatry / history*
  • Psychotic Disorders / history*