Why is it called chicken pox?

I am seven-and-a-half years old and I have chicken pox. My mom and dad are giving me tylenol, benadryl, oatmeal baths and lotion to help my itching. It helps a bit but I'm still itchy.

I would like to know why it is called chicken pox? Do people get it from chickens?


Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

You ask an excellent question. Let me just say that you not only stumped ME on this one, but you stumped a lot of my colleagues as well. Chicken pox is such a common illness, you would think the origin of the name would be well known also. After some careful research, I came upon the origin of the name for chicken pox.

When chicken pox was first described, it was noted that the pox lesions looked more like they were placed upon the skin rather than being a part of the skin themselves. In fact, people long ago felt they looked like chick peas placed upon the skin. The Latin word for chick peas is cicer which is the original word that chicken pox got its name.

So you see, chicken pox has nothing to do with chickens, but the red bumps you have on your body were once thought to look like the vegetable called chick peas. I hope you feel better soon.

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