Have you ever felt as though doctors have a language all their own? Sometimes it’s easy to guess the meaning of names for surgical procedures, such as abdominoplasty, which has something to do with the abdomen. Other times, however, it can seem like words come out of left field. When it comes to words like œrhytidectomy (facelift surgery), it gets even stranger when you discover that the word doesn’t even describe the surgery.

Doctors do have their own language. In fact, they have two! Most medical terminology comes from ancient Greek or Latin words. The word œrhytidectomy is a combination of two different Greek words.

The first half of the word comes from the Greek rhytis, which means œwrinkle. Since facelift surgery corrects the appearance of wrinkles on the face, this shouldn’t be too surprising. However, when you combine rhytis with the second half of the word, it can raise some eyebrows.

You’re probably encountered the suffix -ectomy before. You can find in words like appendectomy, hysterectomy, mastectomy, and vasectomy. These are all surgical procedures that involve the removal of something (appendix, uterus, breast, and sperm ducts, respectively). This is because -ectomy comes from the ancient Greek word ektomia, which literally means œa cutting out of.

Strangely, this means that rhytidectomy literally translates to œthe cutting out of wrinkles. In fact, facelift surgery involves removing excess skin so that wrinkles and sagging skin disappear. During this procedure, a cosmetic surgeon doesn’t actually cut it wrinkles, but removes skin around the borders of the face.

It’s a good thing that cosmetic surgeons don’t literally œcut out wrinkles, since incisions are placed in the natural creases of the face, where scarring is inconspicuous. Needless to say, scars in the place of wrinkles would be very conspicuous!