Not a word you come across every day, this one.
If you’re understandably unfamiliar with it, it’s a term for a building reserved for the quarantine of lepers or poor people with other diseases. I was reminded of it while writing earlier about the word quarantine and its Venetian origins.
Unsurprisingly the word is, like quarantine, of Italian origin, from lazareto. It may even also be specifically Venetian, related to a specific hospital there.
Lazareto itself is derived from Lazarus, the biblical character apparently resurrected by Jesus. This is because Lazarus, like most of the unfortunate inhabitants of a lazaretto, was both poor and suffered greatly from disease. Suffered so much that he died.
Sadly logical as that etymology is, hopefully the word also had some positive connotations for some. Lazarus after all, is most famous not for being poor, or sick, but for being resurrected. Hopefully that at least gave some small hope for recovery to some of those entering a lazaretto.
One thought on “Lazaretto”
Actually, there was another Lazarus mentioned in the Bible; he was in a story Jesus told:
“And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, a leper, who lay at the rich man’s gate, covered with sores.” He was hoping for a crust from the rich man’s table but no one gave him anything.
That’s more likely the Lazarus who was behind this word. Of the other Lazarus, raised from the dead by Jesus, nothing more is written about him after that.