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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

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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" –  blanco cayo Apr 6 '13 at 21:52
@Retrosaur I don’t understand the question that you have done me the honor to pose in your comment. Surely if I doctor something, then that thing has ipso facto been doctored, just as if I cook something it becomes cooked and if I falsify something it becomes falsified. There is nothing more to it than this. –  tchrist Apr 6 '13 at 21:53
Why is the verb form have such a different meaning from the noun form? From google: doctor: A qualified practitioner of medicine; a physician –  blanco cayo Apr 6 '13 at 21:59
The verb form does not “have a different meaning from the noun form”. Your mistake is that Google is not a real dictionary. The OED has 7 senses for the verb doctor to accompany the 22 senses it has for the noun doctor. It makes perfect sense seen in that light. –  tchrist Apr 6 '13 at 22:04
Why? There's no explanation possible for this one instance. It just happens. Word change meanings. Why does 'run' in "you have a run in your stocking" mean something other than running. It happens all the time. Most entries in a (good) dictionary will have multiple entries for a word. –  Mitch Apr 6 '13 at 22:05

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