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ultrasound

compounding noun
a noninvasive medical imaging tool used to form an image based on the differential scattering of sound waves
 
This term is used very commonly in the medical setting. It can be used with no further specification about which meaning is intended in any place where the technology is used (hospital, clinic, etc.). It can also be used acceptably with no further clarification in published papers, specifically medical, biochemistry, and physical chemistry papers. It is also used, though it needs to be clarified further in physics textbooks, where it could refer to both the sound waves and the practical applications. Although it tends to be used more in scientific and medical circles, this definition has gained prominence in popular culture over the original definition because of the use of ultrasound to image unborn babies, which exposes lots of people to the technology and this meaning of the word.
Etymology : the term ultrasound comes from ultrasonic, a affixation of ultra “beyond” and sonic, which comes from the PIE root “swen” through the Latin word sonus “sound.” Ultrasonic was originally coined to refer to the sound waves outside of the range of human hearing, with frequencies greater than 20 kilohertz. This type of sound wave was then used in the creation of a new technology, ultrasonic echo imaging. The noun ultrasound probably developed paralleling the sonic/sound adjective/noun relationship. It originally meant, and still does mean, the sound waves themselves. Later, though, Medical Ultrasound came to refer to the ultrasonic echo imaging which became very commonly used. This compound originally specified the use of the ultrasonic waves, but got clipped to just Ultrasound, with the same meaning. This has led to the term ultrasound being polysemous, although it took a cycle of word formation to arrive back at the same word with a different meaning.
Source : Farhadi, A. AlChE. Recombinantly Expressed Gas Vesicles as Nanoscale Contrast Agents for Ultrasound and Hyperpolarized MRI. 64, 2927-2933 (2018)
Last modified: 10 December 2019


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