One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally: a method of diagnosing pregnancy in which the cervix is tapped by the examiner's finger (within the vagina), causing the fetus to strike against the walls of the uterus (now rare). Later also: a similar technique of physical examination, using sharp tapping blows to impart movement to an organ, especially in the ascitic abdomen.
Mid 19th century. From French ballottement method of diagnosing pregnancy, specifically use of ballottement action of moving, or causing (an object) to move, to and fro from ballotter + -ment.
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