General English

  • noun a serious disease affecting different parts of the body in which cells grow in a way which is not usual
  • noun
    (written as Cancer)
    one of the signs of the Zodiac, shaped like a crab, covering the period 22nd June to 22nd July


  • (written as Cancer)
    constellation on the ecliptic in the northern hemisphere


  • noun a malignant growth or tumour that develops in tissue and destroys it, can spread by metastasis to other parts of the body and cannot be controlled by the body itself

Origin & History of “cancer”

Cancer comes from Latin cancer, which meant literally ‘crab’. It was a translation of Greek karkínos ‘crab’, which, together with its derivative karkínōma (source of English carcinoma (18th c.)) was, according to the ancient Greek physician Galen, applied to tumours on account of the crablike pattern formed by the distended blood vessels around the affected part. Until the 17th century, the term generally used for the condition in English was canker, which arose from an earlier borrowing of Latin cancer in Old English times; before then, cancer had been used exclusively in the astrological sense. The French derivative of Latin cancer, chancre, was borrowed into English in the 16th century for ‘syphilitic ulcer’.