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In a Word: "Armamentarium"

COVID-19 made this big word more common, so what does it mean?

Flipping through dictionary pages

This week, Merriam-Webster made “vaccine” its word of the year. It was the clear choice and joins other medical words that are becoming more mainstream due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. By now you may have heard of monoclonal antibodies, pulse oximeter and maybe even “armamentarium.”

With six syllables, it sounds like a term of war and it does have a connection to weaponry. But the word is more often used in medical parlance to mean the weapons or treatments available to fight a particular condition or disease.

Merriam-Webster says "armamentarium" was first used in 1860 and that the word was borrowed from the Latin: armāmentārium, which means a storehouse for military equipment or armory.

It also can mean more generally a collection of available resources. That’s how CSL Limited CEO Paul Perreault used “armamentarium” in a recent town hall with employees in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, headquarters for CSL Behring. He was talking about innovative, best-in-class strategies for the collection of plasma at the company’s 300 CSL Plasma centers.

“We’re going to use what’s in our armamentarium ... We have to be brilliant because we’re the No. 1 plasma collector in the world,” Perreault said.

The word often appears in medical journals, including this 2015 discussion of the history of bleeding management authored by a group of researchers, including CSL Behring scientists.

“The introduction of blood transfusion into the medical armamentarium was further advanced by the groundbreaking discovery of the ABO blood group…” the scientists wrote.

But it’s because of the COVID-19 pandemic that “armamentarium” graduated from medical journals to be more commonly used. In November 2020, when the first research was released on the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines, NPR quoted Dr. Anthony Fauci as saying it was "a very, very important advance in our armamentarium of trying to stop this outbreak."