OED definition of “etiology”

Initial research on Minamata disease was conducted on cats.

aetiology | etiology, n.

Forms:α. 15 aetiologe, 15–16 aetiologie, 15–17 aitiologie, 16 aitiology, 16 etiologie, 16– aetiology, 16– etiology.β. 15–16 aetiologia.

Etymology:  < classical Latin aetiologia   inquiry into, or explanation of, causes, in post-classical Latin also in medical context (1602 or earlier) < ancient Greek αἰτιολογία   < αἰτία   responsibility, guilt, blame, accusation, cause, reason ( < αἴτιος   culpable, responsible < an unattested noun (compare ἔξαιτος   choice, excellent) < the stem of αἴνυσθαι   to take hold of, seize ( < the same Indo-European base as Tocharian B ai-   to give) + -τος  , suffix forming adjectives) + -λογία  -logy comb. form. Compare Middle French aitiologie  , French étiologie  , †aetiologie   (1550 in an apparently isolated attestation, and subsequently from 1694, in medical context; 1611 in philosophical context), Spanish etiología   (1580), Italian eziologia   (1631 as †etiologia  ; earliest in medical context)…. (Show Less)

 1. The assignment of a cause; the provision of a reason for something; (also) the cause assigned, the reason given for something.

a1555    J. Bradford Two Notable Serm. (1574) sig. Bvij,   He addeth this ætiologie or cause, saying: For the kingdom of heauen is at hand.
1581    T. Rogers tr. N. Hemmingsen Faith of Church Militant iii. iv. 463   ‘The Lord Wil Give Grace and Glorie, and no Good Thing Will He Deprive them of, Which Walke Innocentlie.’ This is an Aetiologe [L. aetiologia]. For it rendreth the reason whie Dauid doth choose to bee the most abiect in the house of the Lorde‥rather than to enioie euen the greatest pleasure and delightes in the tabernacles of ye vngodlie.
1634    Bp. J. Hall Residue Contempl. in Wks. II. 161   And consider with me the Topography, the Artiology [read Aitiology], the Chronography of this miracle.
1656    T. Blount Glossographia,   Etiology, a rendring of a cause, a shewing of reason.
1717    E. Halley in Philos. Trans. 1714–16 (Royal Soc.) 29 406   The Etiology of a matter so uncommon, never before seen by my self.
1771    P. Woulfe in Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 61 115   Ætiology of the Operation.
1810    Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, & Agric. 2nd ser. 17 370   It is not, however, very easy to give a plausible etiology of the method of refining mentioned by Agatharchides.
1893    Jrnl. Hellenic Stud. 13 254   We are told by Pliny‥that it was at Corinth that gold was first mixed with the bronze, though his story of its invention‥has a distinct savour of aetiology.
1935    Baltimore Sun 8 Jan. 10/7   He‥said that his old father had frequently used this quaint expression to indicate that the weather was inclement, cold and windy. I then asked him what his notion was as to the etiology of this bit of folklore.
2008    S. Niditch Judges 210   The tale of the women of Shiloh may well be an etiology for customs involving marriage.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary
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