Word of the Day


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who is trained to look after ill or injured people, usually in a hospital

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun nurse started life as a variant of the borrowed French word ‘nourice’. It was first used in English in the 14th century, when it meant a woman who breastfed or looked after someone else’s child. The current meaning dates from the 17th century.


Today is International Nurses’ Day, whose purpose needs no further explanation in a year when people have more reason than ever to be grateful to the nurses who are at the forefront of the care of patients made very sick by Covid-19. The date was chosen as it is the birthday of probably the world’s most famous nurse, Florence Nightingale, who was born on this day 200 years ago. We wrote about her recently here. 2020 has also been designated International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Nurse is also a verb and the profession is called nursing. There are many different kinds of nurse: you can explore this and related topics in the thesaurus entries, starting here.


Instead of the usual quotation, here is a video of Michael Rosen’s poem “These are the Hands“, written for the 60th anniversary of the NHS in 2008.

Related words

charge nurse, district nurse, registered nurse, sister

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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