Medical writers previous to the middle of the last century described influenza under the name of catarrhus epidemicus, febris or cephalcea catarrhalis epidemica, tussis epidemica, contagious catarrhal fever. A disease which travels throughout all countries naturally receives numerous popular designations. Numbers of these names are very droll, and point to the harmlessness of the disease. But we will pass them over. The expressions "horion" (1411, in France) and "lightning catarrh" (1782) point to the sudden onset of the disease. The names "tac," "sheep's cough," "sheep's disease" (1580), were applied to influenza no account of the loud, bleating cough that characterized it. The names " Gallant" and " fashionable disease" (1709-32) were applied on account of its " newness" and because every one had to follow the fashion.
The designations Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Italian catarrh point to the supposed country of origin of the pestilence in each case. The name "coqueluche" was first applied (1578) to influenza; but later it was transferred to whooping cough, and in this way has produced considerable confusion in the history of both diseases.
The term influenza (influxus) was first applied to the disease in the epidemic of 1743 by Pringle and Huxham. The word points to the causation of the disease, "influence of cold," influenze di freddo, or "influence through atmospheric phenomena." Even Ch. Calen (1759) makes it depend on " ab occulta quadam coeli influential
The word " grip " originated simultaneously with the name " influenza " in the year 1743; but its birthplace was France, where, up to the present time, the disease has had only this enviably convenient name. The word is derived from "aggriper," to attack, or from "gripper," to catch, to snatch, and perhaps originated in an analogous manner to the words lightning catarrh and horion. The Slavonic form of the word (chrypka = hoarseness, J. Frank Eiselt) has not yet been proved to be an earlier name for the disease. Grant (1782) relates that the name is derived from an insect called "la grippe," which at that time in Europe was generally considered to be the cause of the disease (compare section on Influence of Meteorologic Conditions).
The suggestion to confine the term influenza to the "real epidemic influenza" and the term grip to the ordinary catarrhal fever comes much too late to have any chance of success, and would, moreover, make the international comprehension of the terms more difficult. At present everybody knows that the grip of the French and Belgians is identical with the influenza of all other nations.