Is there a difference between sanitarium and sanatorium? A search over the net brings some pages which say that there's not much difference. For example, this article says there is one difference but it does not seem like a reasonable difference to me. So, is there really a difference between the two and which one is used in the modern world?
Sanatorium and sanitarium are two words that are very close in spelling and pronunciation. We will look at the difference between the words sanatorium and sanitarium and some examples of their use in sentences.
A sanatorium is a facility where people with chronic illnesses or a need to convalesce are treated. Sanatoriums were first established in the 1800s, mostly to treat tuberculosis. The purposes of a sanatorium was to first, isolate the afflicted from the healthy population and second, afford the patient a healthy environment in which to heal. Before the advent of antibiotics, tuberculosis was a scourge on the population.
A sanitarium is also a facility where people with chronic illnesses or a need to convalesce are treated. The plural forms are sanitariums or sanitaria.
The terms sanatorium and sanitarium are interchangeable, however, sanitarium is primarily a North American word. The difference between the words is their origin, though it is not much of a difference. The word sanitorium is derived from the Late Latin word sanitorius, which means health-giving. The word sanitarium is derived from the Latin word sanitas, which means health.
When pulling down the good ol' Webster's from the shelf above my desk and giving it a dust-clearing smack, perusing the words, considering etymology, ruminating and fuminating in thought (onions - sorry!), my surprisingly profitable career in Arch. Hist. (I get consulted on fenestration in restorations besides the re-use building I do for fun & profit), I came to this conclusion: sanitarium is closer to sanitary than is sanitory/sanatory. Like the debate over a score of years ago as to the correct plural of "computer mouse," I'm inclined to consider that a "sanitarium" is a place for chronic care in a "clean" environment, as for tuberculosis, whereas "sanatorium" is closer to the word "insane" and thus a place for long-term care for mental illness. A place to clean out the cobwebs in the muddled corners of the mind.