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I've given an English children's story to a small group of Italian kids to read and perform. The story is about a boy who changes into a cat and makes friends with a one-eyed next-door neighbour; a grumpy-looking man who wears an eye patch.

The kids didn't really understand what "one-eyed" meant so I translated it in Italian as guèrcio. But they didn't know what that word meant, so I explained to them that "a one-eyed man" was a person who could see only from one eye, and no, he wasn't a Cyclops.

Likewise in Italian there is the adjective mónco which can describe a person with an amputated limb (usually it's the arm).

Which got me thinking, if each of these two physical disabilities has its own word in Italian, why isn't there its equivalent in English? I suppose nowadays these terms would be judged to be insensitive and discriminating, but what about in the past?

Maybe there used to be words that meant: "one-eyed person" and "one-armed person", or perhaps something in slang?

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    Luscus is the Latin word for a one-eyed person. There is no English word. – John Lawler Mar 20 '15 at 4:13
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    Slangy terms for one-armed and one-legged are wingy and peggy (or peg-leg). Both sometimes pronominalized as in Joe 'Wingy' Manone (jazz player) and Frank 'Peggy' Gadsby (stunt diver). – Frank Mar 20 '15 at 6:26
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    As a side note: also Italians generally use periphrases for one-eyed such as con un occhio solo or cieco ad un occhio for instance. Guercio is more literary than common usage, plus its two meanings (one-eyed and cross-eyed) may create misunderstanding. – user66974 Mar 20 '15 at 7:14
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    Spanish uses tuerto to mean “one-eyed” (whether noun or adjective), not for “twisted” as in English tortuous or Italian torto. That person can only see out of one eye: the other may be missing or simply blind. Iberian languages also have a single word (again, either as substantive or adjective) for lame: ES cojo, PT coxo, CA coix; all from L. coxus and unrelated to vulgar cojón or cojonudo from L. coleus, although many a lame pun has been made of the similarity between the two. I don’t think Italian has a cojo cognate, right? – tchrist Mar 20 '15 at 13:47
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    My wife and I both think tuerto only means "missing one eye" and does not include the "having both eyes, but blind in one of them". (Although the Spanish Royal Academy seems to agree with you.) We're both Mexican, maybe this varies from country to country? – Omar Antolín-Camarena Mar 20 '15 at 13:52
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There is monoculus for a one-eyed person but OED says that it is obsolete.

2. A one-eyed person or creature. Obs.

Etymology from OED:

< post-classical Latin monoculus the caecum (1363 in Chauliac), a one-eyed person or creature (7th cent.; from 12th cent. in British sources), irregularly < ancient Greek μονο- mono- comb. form + classical Latin oculus .

The word is perhaps attested earlier in sense A. 2 as a surname, Simon Monoculus (1212), though it is unclear whether this is to be interpreted as Middle English or post-classical Latin.


For someone who is blind in one eye or wearing an eye-patch, it doesn't seem like there is a specific single word. (For example, there is borgne in French.)

However, there is again an obsolete word for this sense: purblind.

2. †a. Blind in one eye. Obs.

Urbandictionary mentions pirate-eyed as a slang term but it is described as a specific case:

"Pirate-eyed" is a condition resulting from over use of the iPhone or similar device in the dark or dimly-lit environment whilst favoring one eye. The resulting condition causes a temporary focal imbalance akin to having a patch over an eye.

  • I would guess that "monoculus" is apt to be read as "mononucleosis". – Hot Licks Mar 20 '15 at 17:06
  • Anything on "one-armed person"? – Mari-Lou A Mar 20 '15 at 17:21
  • @Mari-LouA: It could be monobrachium (Latin for arm is brachium) if we apply the same logic, but currently it is the name of an animal. I also see the usage of "monobrachial homology" or "monobrachial chromosome" in biology. It looks like there isn't a word in English for a "one-armed person". – ermanen Mar 20 '15 at 17:33
  • @Mari-LouA: Based on ermanen's input, a monobrachial refers to a chromosome with one "arm" in biology. Since a(n) (congenital) amputee is commonly used in English without necessarily implying brachiotomy, I wonder if monobrachial-amputee understood? – SYK Mar 20 '15 at 22:15
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A monops.

monops, n. and adj.

rare.

A. n.

A one-eyed individual.

1743 tr. N. Andry Orthopædia II. iv. 89 There are some People who have one Eye so small that one would almost say they have only one, whence the Name of Myopia is given to this Deformity, as the Person who has it is called a Monops.

1842 J. Wilson Recreations Christopher North II. 138 A few years ago.., in a mine in Cornwall, after a descent of about one-third the bored earth's diameter, we were saluted by name by a grim Monops who had not seen the upper regions for years.

1858 R. J. MacGeorge Tales, Sketches & Lyrics 191 Ardlaw rushed from the unlucky messuage with only one eye... Thus mutilated, mother Church..would have nothing to say to the monops.

1875 G. Meredith Beauchamp's Career xlv, in Fortn. Rev. 18 593 He would have been a Nelson of politics, if he had been a monops, with an excuse for not seeing.

1900 W. A. N. Dorland Illustr. Med. Dict. 396/1 Monops, a fetus having but a single eye.

B. adj.

That has only one eye; one-eyed.

1857 R. G. Mayne Expos. Lexicon Med. Sci. (1860) Monops, having but one eye: one-eyed. 1993 J. Peck Argura 62 Monops, monoglot, monosandalos—plenitude in a point.


A monophthalmic, derived from adjective monophthalmic and medical condition monophthalmia.

monophthalmic, adj. rare.

Having only one eye; one-eyed.

1857 J. W. Donaldson Christian Orthodoxy 356 The belief in Cyclopian or monophthalmic deities.

1865 Sat. Rev. 16 Sept. 355/2 St. Jerome was equally explicit about the existence of the Phœnix and monophthalmic men. 1995 Times Higher Educ. Suppl. (Nexis) 1 Sept. 23 The deeper reading that sees the monophthalmic Cyclops as holding up a mirror to the Greeks' own cultural..deficiencies.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

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    Not everyone has access to the OED, for example me! Could you copy and paste the definition of monops, please? – Mari-Lou A Mar 20 '15 at 9:28
  • It wasn't free for everyone? I don't have an account, either. OK, as you wish. – SYK Mar 20 '15 at 10:23
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    No, when I click on the link I just see the home page :( – Mari-Lou A Mar 20 '15 at 10:26
  • Anything on "one-armed person"? – Mari-Lou A Mar 20 '15 at 17:21

protected by tchrist Jan 16 '17 at 5:49

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