- A rod with two snakes entwined about it topped by a pair of wings. The caduceus served as the symbol of Hermes and Mercury, the Greek and Roman messenger gods. The caduceus was the sign of a herald and hence a logical symbol for the messenger. Because of a misconception, the caduceus became the insignia of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. The Medical Corps should have chosen the symbol of medicine, which is the rod of Aesculapius, which has only one snake and no wings atop it. No wings were necessary since the essence of medicine is not speed. The single serpent that could shed its skin and emerge in full vigor represents the renewal of youth and health — medicine. The Latin word "caduceus" came from the Greek "karykeion," from "karyx" or "keryx" meaning "herald." The ancient caduceus with its pair of snakes coiled about each other resembles somewhat a model of the structure of DNA (the double helix) which was only discovered in modern times (in 1953, if that is still in "modern times").
* * *A staff with two oppositely twined serpents and surmounted by two wings; emblem of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. For veterinary medicine the double serpent was changed in 1972 to its present form with a single serpent. SEE ALSO: staff of Aesculapius. [L. the staff of Mercury; G. keryx herald, the staff of Hermes]
* * *ca·du·ceus kə-'d(y)ü-sē-əs, -shəs n, pl -cei -sē-.ī a medical insignia bearing a representation of a staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at the top:a) one of the symbols of a physician compare STAFF OF AESCULAPIUSb) the emblem of a medical corps or a department of the armed services (as of the U.S. Army)Each boldface word in the list below is a chiefly British variant of the word to its right in small capitals.caecal - CECALcaecally - CECALLYcaecectomy - CECECTOMYcaecitis - CECITIScaecopexy - CECOPEXYcaecostomy - CECOSTOMYcaecotomy - CECOTOMYcaecum - CECUMcaenogenetic - CENOGENETIC
* * *ca·du·ce·us (kə-dooґshəs) [L., from Gr. karykeion, herald's staff] the winged staff of Hermes or Mercury, the messenger of the gods, with two snakes winding around it. Used as a medical symbol and as the emblem of the Medical Corps, U.S. Army. The official symbol of the medical profession is the staff of Aesculapius.
Caduceus. (A), United States Army Medical Corps; (B), American Veterinary Medicine Association.
Medical dictionary. 2011.