-ergic as in sentences like Y is Xergic denotes that Y has the property of being sensitive to X or that Y produces X. In simple terms, it means that the noun does something with x. In my field of study, this os true for e.g. dopaminergic-, serotonergic-, and glutamatergic neurons which are neurons that are sensitive to these respective neurotransmitters and/or releases them.

But the word allergic seems to denote only a sensitivity to allergens but not a production of allergens? An allergic person does not release pollen. Is the word allergic too general and therefore a misnomer?

  • 2
    The word allergic was first by around 20 years (1911). If anybody is misusing the suffix, it's your field of study, which adapted the -ergic suffix in 1934. [From the OED: H.H. Dale – We seem to need words which will briefly indicate action by two kinds of chemical transmission, due in the one case to some substance like adrenaline, in the other case to a substance like acetylcholine, so that we may distinguish between chemical function and anatomical origin. I suggest the words ‘adrenergic’ and ‘cholinergic’ respectively.] – Peter Shor May 24 '16 at 12:51

The etymology of the term is different from what you are suggesting, I don't think it is a misnomer:

Allergic (adj.) :

  • 1911, from allergy + -ic; perhaps modeled on French allergique (1906).

allergy (n.) :

  • 1911, from German Allergie, coined 1906 by Austrian pediatrician Clemens E. von Pirquet (1874-1929) from Greek allos "other, different, strange" (see alias (adv.)) + ergon "activity" (see organ).


  • Containing, involving, or transmitting dopamine.



  • produced by the specified thing
  • activated by the specified thing
  • The etymology is not that different. The suffix -ergic comes from the Greek suffix -ergos + the English/French/Latin suffix -ic. These are the same components that form allergic (since -ergos is the suffix corresponding to the Greek word ergon. – Peter Shor May 24 '16 at 12:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.