One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A rare congenital deformity in which the hands or feet are attached close to the trunk, the limbs being grossly underdeveloped or absent. This condition was a side effect of the drug thalidomide taken during early pregnancy.
- ‘Babies were born with hands and feet attached directly to the body, a condition known as phocomelia.’
- ‘The most well-known defect, a severe shortening of the arms or legs with flipper-like hands or feet, is called phocomelia.’
- ‘Cases of phocomelia in the early 1960's in Germany and Australia led to the identification of thalidomide as a human teratogen.’
- ‘This was in spite of such FDA victories as the ban of thalidomide, which caused phocomelia in more than 8000 babies in Europe, where the drug was freely used.’
- ‘The correlation between those taking thalidomide in the crucial period and the incidence of phocomelia became more evident, and the drug was withdrawn in 1961.’
Late 19th century: modern Latin, from Greek phōkē ‘seal’ + melos ‘limb’.
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