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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Clyde Partin, MD, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, 1524 Victoria Falls Dr. NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 (e-mail: clyde.partin@emoryhealthcare.org)

The author gratefully acknowledges the following people for editorial and/or research contributions: Herbert W. Benario, PhD (Professor Emeritus, Emory University); William Fletcher, PhD (formerly of Emory University); Stephen Greenberg, PhD (National Library of Medicine); Zachary Parker (PhD Candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill); Michael D. Russell, JD (retired, Department of Homeland Security); Hannah Rutledge, PhD, MLIS, AHIP (Emory University); Crystal Smith (reference librarian, National Library of Medicine); Thomas R. Todd, JD; and Sally Wolff-King, PhD (Emory University).



  • Civil war
  • International Classification of Diseases-10
  • St. Elizabeths Hospital
  • gunshot wound
  • vulnus sclopetarium

Vulnus sclopetarium (gunshot wound).


Journal Title:

Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings


Volume 31, Number 2


, Pages 231-234

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Fading from the vernacular, the Latin phrase vulnus sclopetarium is a quaint, mystifying, and fascinating term that is translated as gunshot wound. There is a fulminating paucity of published information regarding the meaning of this term and the etymology. Trauma surgeons, military surgeons, and scholars of the medical aspects of the civil war may be familiar with the term. Vulnus is easily deciphered from ancient Latin as wound, whereas the origin of sclopetarium proves more difficult to discern. No guns were present in ancient Rome because guns were not invented until around the 13th century; hence, no Latin word for them existed. Thus, sclopetarium is classified as neo-Latin, and deconstruction of the word reveals that sclopeta means gun, but that destination was arrived at via a convoluted path. The suffix -arium implies a place. Remarriage of the two parts suggests that the gun is an instrument of injury, which is typically incurred on a battlefield. An alternative explanation may be that -arium may also refer to the anatomical location of the wound.

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© 2018 Baylor University Medical Center

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