Grey Matter: Etymology and the neuron(e)

Arpan R Mehta (Lead / Corresponding author), Puja R Mehta, Stephen P Anderson, Barbara L H MacKinnon, Alastair Compston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


The nerve cell, made up of its axonal appendage and major dendrites, is variously referred to as the ‘neuron’ or ‘neurone’. The reason for preferring one spelling over the other is usually assumed to reflect American (neuron) versus British (neurone) use of the English language. However, the spelling is inconsistent even within these cultural boundaries. For instance, both the Motor Neurone Disease Association (based in the UK) and the USA based International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations refer to ‘motor neurone disease’. Others use the spellings interchangeably, even within the same sentence; see, for example, ‘Mechanism behind neuron death in motor neurone disease and frontotemporal dementia discovered’ (Wellcome, 2018). These agencies are not alone in appearing uncertain as to which is the correct spelling. Attention has previously been drawn to these ambiguities, and opinion expressed on which is the correct spelling (McMenemy, 1963). Here, we trace in more detail the introduction of the word for nerve cell, and provide etymological arguments supporting the view that the correct, and only, spelling is ‘neuron’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-379
Number of pages6
JournalBrain : a journal of neurology
Issue number1
Early online date17 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Humans
  • Language
  • Neurons
  • Terminology as Topic


Dive into the research topics of 'Grey Matter: Etymology and the neuron(e)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this