Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

I’ve been doing medicine for a minute. In less lucid moments I even call myself a medical professional (usually I call myself a shit/fan separation specialist, tasked with preventing the former from hitting the latter).

It is thus, that I ask of you: if you ever feel dumb or ignorant again, if there’s a moment where you doubt your brain’s capacity to deal, remember this:

It took me until last night, in a semi-wake stupor (have not slept for a few days, finals and migraine and all), to realize why adrenaline is called adrenaline.

Now, most modern medical literature refers to it as epinephrine, and that makes it even worse.

Image of adrenal gland sitting on top of the kidney.

This is the adrenal gland. Which is also its old name, modern text books call it by its proper name: suprarenal gland. And that makes it another step worse.

Turns out, we call adrenaline “adrenaline” because it is produced near (ad) the renal system (from latin “renes,” kidneys, above in dark red). Epinephrine? From Latin epi- “upon” and “nephros” from Greek nephrós, “kidney.”

Yeah, I would have been able to tell you that adrenaline is mostly produced in the adrenal medulla of the suprarenal gland. I’d probably try to sound smart and tell you, that 2-6% of adrenaline in the body is produced in the medulla oblongata of the brain.

But, damn, how can you use a word for 20+ years and never realize where it comes from? See, you’re not so dumb!

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