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March 04, 2013


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I suppose we normally mean 'general practitioner' when we say 'doctor' and I believe GPs still receive training as surgeons as well as physicians. But it's strange that when we go to see our GP it is usually for physic (we'd expect to be sent somewhere else if we needed to be cut open) but the place where the GP works is called ... a surgery.

Virtual Linguist

Very good point, Picky. I hadn't thought of that. I've just looked it up in the OED and see surgery has only been used in the sense 'office' since the mid-19th century.


To Picky's point, "surgery" as an office, is not found in American usage; I don't know about Canada.

I first encountered it in the British West Indies and later in England, but never in the US.

Interesting post Susan.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, John. I often write English material for American-English textbooks and exams and I now know not to write doctor's or dentist's surgery - my American editor always changes it to 'office'.

By the way, MPs also have 'surgeries' in the UK, which are meetings when their constituents can go and air their concerns.


That's interesting re: MP's, Susan. I'm in Barbados on holiday as I write this. I must remember to ask some of my friends whether they have similar usage here; I don't recall it, but they probably mirror England in that respect also.


The politicians' surgeries are events rather than places, of course (they may hold them in constituency offices, village halls etc). But then I think doctors can have events called 'surgeries', too. You can imagine the GP saying to a partner "Can you do morning surgery for me today?".

Virtual Linguist

True, Picky. Good point.

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Thank you, John. I often write English material, the test and now I know American English textbooks don't write a doctor or dentist surgery - always change it my American editor, "the office".

doctor excuse

Good description about the difference between the words doctor and physician.
And from where they have been obtained from has been explained clearly.


In Australia and presumably the UK, A physician is someone who is often referred to as a specialist..
A thoracic physician, for example, would look after the lungs etc, doing everything except surgery.

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