Did You Know?
Alienist looks and sounds like it should mean “someone who studies aliens,” and in fact alienist and alien are related—both are ultimately derived from the Latin word alius, meaning “other.” In the case of alienist, the etymological trail leads from Latin to the French noun aliéniste, which refers to a doctor who treats the mentally ill. Alienist first appeared in print in English about mid-19th century. It was preceded by the other alius descendants, alien (14th century) and alienate (used as a verb since the 15th century). Alienist is much rarer than psychiatrist these days, but at one time it was a common term.
“Enter two protagonists, also historical figures. One is the novelist Benito Pérez Galdós, ‘the most famous Spanish writer whom many English-speaking readers may not know by name or reputation.’ The other is the eminent alienist (as psychiatrists were then called) Luis Simarro.” — The Kirkus Reviews, 6 Mar. 2020