Skip to content

Variations on the Horse-leech

Google Ngram comparison of “horseleech” and “horseleach”: here.

And horse-leech, n., defined by the Oxford English Dictionary:

Pronunciation: /ˈhɔːsliːtʃ/
Etymology: < horse n. + leech n.1 < Old English lǽce, léce, physician. 1. A horse-doctor, farrier, veterinary surgeon.

  • 1493 in J. T. Fowler Memorials Church SS. Peter & Wilfrid, Ripon (1888) III. 165 Item Johanni Hors~leych pro medicacione j equo magistri Langton, 7d.
  • ?1518 Cocke Lorelles Bote sig. B.vj, Bokell smythes, horse leches, and gold beters.
  • 1529 T. More Dialogue Heresyes ii. x. 52 b/2 Saynt Loy we make an horsleche, and must let our horse rather renne vnshodde and marre hys hoofe than to shoo hym on hys daye.
  • 1653 Z. Bogan Medit. Mirth Christian Life 234 The horse..will not endure the hand of the horseleech.

Thesaurus: marshal (c1387-95), horse marshal (1508), farrier (1622), horse-doctor (1672), mule-doctor (1678), hippiatric (a1690), hippiatrist (1895)

2. An aquatic sucking worm ( Hæmopsis sanguisorba) differing from the common leech in its larger size, and in the formation of the jaws.
(In some early quotes. it seems to mean the common medicinal leech.)

  • 14.. in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 706/26 Hec sanguissuga, a horsleche.
  • 1530 J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 232/2 Horse leche, a worme, sansue.
  • 1535 Bible (Coverdale) Prov. xxx. B, This generacion (which is like an horsleche) hath two doughters [Wycliffite The watir leche hath twei douȝtris]: ye one is called, fetch hither: the other, brynge hither.
  • 1573–80 J. Baret Aluearie H. 663 An Horse leach, or bloudsucker worme, hirudo.
  • 1581 J. Marbeck Bk. Notes & Common Places 503 The Horse-leach hath two daughters..that is, two forks in her tongue, which he heere calleth her daughters, wherby she sucketh the bloud, and is neuer saciate.
  • 1625 J. Hart Anat. Urines i. ii. 15 Horse-leaches were wont to taste of the horses dung.
  • 1813 W. Bingley Animal Biogr. (ed. 4) III. 412 Horse-leeches extremely greedy of blood, that a vulgar notion is prevalent, that nine of them are able to destroy a horse.
  • 1880 Chambers’s Encycl. VI. 74/2 The much larger than the medicinal species..but its teeth are comparatively blunt, and it is little of a blood-sucker—notwithstanding the popular notion..It feeds greedily on earth-worms.

Thesaurus: horse-eel (c1400)

3. fig. A rapacious, insatiable person.

  • 1546 Supplic. Poor Commons sig. a.iiiv, Besydes the infinite nombre of purgatorie horsleaches.
  • 1608 J. Sylvester tr. G. de S. Du Bartas Deuine Weekes & Wks. (new ed.) ii. iv. 118 Thou, life of Strife, thou Horse-leach sent from Hell.
  • 1705 E. Hickeringill Priest-craft 14 Of all Priests, the Popes have been in several Ages the great Horse-leaches, and Blood-suckers.
  • 1836–48 B. D. Walsh tr. Aristophanes Clouds i. i, He has disregarded my advice, and stuck horse-leeches on to my estate.

Thesaurus: gorge (c1450), sanguisuge (c1540), harpy (1589), vulture (1605), leech (1785), sanguisorb (1884)


† horse-leech v. Obs. (trans.) to suck insatiably (as reputed of the horse-leech):

  • 1679 Protestant Conformist 3 They have thereby Horse-leach’d a great deal of the best blood in Europe.

† horse-leechery n. Obs.

  • 1688 R. Holme Acad. Armory ii. 149/2 Horse Leachery, or Leach-craft, is the Art of curing Horses of Diseases.

† horse-leechcraft n. Obs. veterinary medicine.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.