One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The part of the back (or backbone) between the shoulder blades and the loins which an animal cannot reach to scratch; the part of the human back between the shoulder blades.
Mid 18th century; earliest use found in Robert James (d. 1776), physician and inventor of James's fever powder. From post-classical Latin acnestis from Hellenistic Greek ἄκνηστις spine, backbone from ancient Greek κνῆστις spine, cheese-grater, in Hellenistic Greek also itching (from -κναίειν to scrape, grate, scratch (only attested in compounds; ultimately from the same Indo-European base as Old High German nuoen to polish, Lithuanian knoti to peel off, flake away) + inserted -σ- + -τις, suffix forming feminine nouns), either by the addition of prothetic ἀ- or by false segmentation of κατὰ κνῆστιν ‘on the spine’ (Homer Odyssey 10. 161).
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