"Gurney" etymology

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Apr 15 02:23:26 UTC 2004

>         The etymology given in Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate sounds
> plausible:  probably ultimately from _Gurney cab_ type of horse-drawn cab
> with a rear entrance, from J. Theodore _Gurney,_ who patented such a cab
> in Boston in 1883.
>         This 1904 cite may be an antedating, though I suppose the cab
> theory is at least equally likely.  "The respondent, after setting out in
> her complaint in detail the cause and nature of her injuries, and the
> several ways she had been damaged by reason thereof, demanded judgment
> for loss of wages, for amounts she had paid and contracted for gurney
> hire, for amounts she had paid and contracted for drugs and medicines,
> physicians' services, hospital charges, and 'for damages caused by
> permanent injuries,' but made no special demand for damages caused by
> pain and suffering."  Gallamore v. City of Olympia, 75 P. 978, 34 Wash.
> 379 (1904).

Yes, "probably ultimately" seems plausible, although not ineluctable.
Looking at DARE, it seems that "gurney" was used for "ambulance" (as well
as "police wagon") in the early 20th century, presumably from the name of
the cab type.

I speculate that the 1904 citation has "gurney" = "ambulance".

-- Doug Wilson

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