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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a short-statured or short-limbed person

A galeancon, or galiancon, is a stocky, short-limbed person.

This is one of the most peculiar words we’ve had on HH for a while—and happily, it has a suitably peculiar tale behind it too.

Recorded in a handful of nineteenth century medical dictionaries (and seldom used elsewhere or since), at the root of this is galeë, a Greek word for a weasel, a stoat, or a wildcat.

If you’re a classicist, that’s a word you’re probably more used to seeing defined as a Roman soldier’s helmet (and indeed a galeated person is someone wearing a helmet, while something described as galeate would resemble a helmet in shape or form). The missing link between these two is apparently the use of animal fur or hide to make the very first loose cap-like style of galea used in antiquity—or else as a lining for later metal galea to make them more comfortable on the wearer’s head. (Etymologically, gal was probably the animal’s name, with the suffix –ee, or some form of it, used to refer specifically to its hide.)

What does all this have to do with short limbs and stock statures? Well, those nineteenth century physicians apparently thought that the truncated limb that often grew from an injured shoulder or hip somehow resembled the noticeably short leg or foreleg of low-statured animals likes weasels and stoats. The condition itself ultimately came to be known first as galeancon—a name that literally means ‘weasel elbow’—before the word later came to be used as a byword for any person suffering (or at least, appearing to suffer) from a shortening of their limbs.

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