What Does The Word 'Osteopathy' Mean?

  This article was originally published by Rocky Mountain Osteopathy.

Mark MacKenzie of Rocky Mountain Osteopathy in Golden, British Columbia shared this article with me. His reexamination of the meaning of the word 'Osteopathy' is very intriguing and he comes to a definition that is quite accurate to what we do as osteopaths!
Contact Mark at

What does the word ‘Osteopathy’ mean?


It is too often explained as “bone sickness” or “bone disease”, which is understandable given our current medical definitions of Osteo- (bone) and -pathy (disorder).

But the word OSTEOPATHY actually comes from two Greek words:


which means not bone, but “structure of living matter”



meaning an incoming impression, or profound emotion.

The root meaning of “pathos” here is similar to its use in the words “sympathy,” “empathy,” or “telepathy.” (And not as in “pathology” which is a modern and derived meaning that is almost a reversal of the original meaning of the word.)

Thus, the term “osteopathy” means or could be explained as “sensing or perceiving the influence of the bones or structure on the body in relation to disease, causation, and cure.” Or more simply put “the science of perceiving structure”!


-The Theory of Osteopathy (Ref: 1936, Ernest E Tucker DO and Perrin T Wilson DO)
-The true meaning of osteopathy : the bone and its influence on . (Ref : 2007, Olivier Auquier : Ostéopathie – Prinicipes et application ostéoarticulaire)
-Paul Robers, DOMP, 2015

To learn more about Osteopathy, check out our Osteopathy blog.

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