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This is a phrase I’m particularly confused about, because it’s used often when something is manipulated or changed.

For example, sometimes images surface online that are clearly Photoshopped, but people refer to them as “doctored” images. Why use the word “doctored” here?

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Oxford Dictionary Online. Sense 2 of the verb has been extended into becoming sense 1. – Andrew Leach Apr 6 '13 at 21:54
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The adjective doctored derives from the figurative use of the verb doctor, meaning per the OED:

To treat so as to alter the appearance, flavour, or character of; to disguise, falsify, tamper with, adulterate, sophisticate, ‘cook’.

The first citation is from the 18th century.

In case it helps you see how these things developed, here from the OED, minus the citations, are all the senses given for doctor verb, including this one:

1. trans. To confer the degree or title of Doctor upon; to make a Doctor.

2a. To treat, as a doctor or physician; to administer medicine or medical treatment to.

2b. transf. To repair, patch up, set to rights.

2c. To castrate (an animal).

3. fig. To treat so as to alter the appearance, flavour, or character of; to disguise, falsify, tamper with, adulterate, sophisticate, ‘cook’.

4. intr. a. To practise as a physician. (Usually in vbl. sb. or pr. pple.)

4b. To take medicine, undergo medical treatment.

Hence ˈdoctored ppl. a., ˈdoctoring vbl. sb.; also ˈdoctorer, one who doctors.

It should be pretty clear how the straightforward sense 2a turned into the transferred sense 2b, and thence to sense 3 by figurative extension.

This shows why it is important that senses be listed in the historical order that they came into the language, not merely by order of each sense’s currency or popularity.

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But how does the word "doctor" tie in with "doctored" – cheers love Apr 6 '13 at 21:52
Why is the verb form have such a different meaning from the noun form? From google: doctor: A qualified practitioner of medicine; a physician – cheers love Apr 6 '13 at 21:59
@Mitch Actually, here there is a clear explanation: it is a perfectly sensible figurative sense of something that’s been patched up. – tchrist Apr 6 '13 at 22:08
I was more or less concerned with how "doctor" related to "doctored'. – cheers love Apr 7 '13 at 0:44
@Retrosaur Almost any English word, whatever word class it starts in, may be used in a pinch as any other part of speech. Very often such uses become widely accepted in the language as new senses of. Thus, the activity of a doctor became the verb to doctor a wound or a disease or a patient. Later that sense was extended to figurative repairs of a machine or an ill-prepared dish; then *that sense was extended still farther to "repairs" of things that don't need repairing: for instance, 'doctoring' milk with water, or 'doctoring' images which don't look quite right. – StoneyB Apr 7 '13 at 0:56

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