What does the word "vitamins" mean?

The name "Vitamin" was coined in 1912 by the Polish biochemist Casimir Funk (1884 - 1967). Vita comes from Latin and means life. Amines are derivatives of ammonia.

Scurvy - the disease of the sailors

Already in the Middle Ages, the disease scurvy was known, which frequently appeared in seafarers and which could be cured by eating fruits and vegetables. Thus, it was known that it was a diet-related disease, but the word vitamins was still a foreign word.


In 1886, the Dutch physician Christiaan Eijkman (1858-1930) was sent to Java, Indonesia, to study a condition known as Beri-Beri's disease. Eijkman correctly guessed that it was a deficiency disease, but could not clarify which food components were responsible.

Later, Casimir Funk and Frederick Cowland Hopkins (1861-1947) came to the conclusion that beri-beri and scurvy were deficiencies in a dietary constituent that is needed only in small amounts. Beri-beri is caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1).

Funk gave these nutrients, of which only very small amounts are needed, the name vitamins. "Translated" Life amines. Funk assumed that the vitamins are a uniform group of substances.

English perfectionism

Since vitamins are by no means a homogeneous substance group, the term - at least in the English-speaking world - was renamed. From "vitamines" to "vitamins". Now the vitamins in English lack the "e". Although the word "amine" still stands at the end, it no longer indicates the substance group of the amines.

However, we continue to stick to our "vitamins". Let's hope that they still work ...

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