Homeopathy – homoeopathy – homœopathy

During my studies in England I got used to spelling the word like this: homeopathy.

One of my great sources for continued professional development, with deep dives into this wonderful branch of natural medicine, is Jeremy Sherr. He addressed the importance of correct spelling of the name given to this discipline, from the founder himself: Samuel Hahnemann.


With the symbolic œ, followed by an o, giving œo. In one of his webinars Jeremy Sherr sheds light on several aspects of this spelling, and encourages everyone to use the spelling homœopathy - or the simplified homoeopathy - when using the word.

I was inspired!

But this also resulted in some confusion for me - so I choose to share some more musings on this subject.

Homeopathy/homeopati – homoeopathy/homøopati

Among homoeopaths in Norway, homeopati and homøopati is used interchangeably. I wished to use the version bearing the most likeness to homeopathy, that I was used to (but which should be replaced with homoeopathy if we go along with Sherr's arguments).

But at this point I was curious: does this ø in the Norwegian alphabet bear more resemblance to the original spelling?

The question arose: how did Samual Hahnemann actually spell the word, in German? Did he use œ, or is there maybe a letter in the German alphabet that corresponds to the Norwegian ø?

I searched for answers, and could only find references to the original spelling as containing œ. As I do not master the German language, I have not been able to dig deeper into German sources.

So what is the most fitting spelling in Norwegian? Should I switch to the team using ø;

Or should I commit to using œ - with the simplified oe when practical - when writing homoeopati/homøopati?

One thing is certain: continuing using the simplified spelling - homeopathy/homeopati - does not bestow the respect and reverence on this medical art-form that it deserves!

Help from the homøopati-community

I asked in a Norwegian homeopati-group whether anyone knew the original spelling that Hahnemann used. Luckily, other homoeopaths are more familiar with the German language than I am!

In German they use ö - for the same vocal sound we use ø for in Norwegian.

So where does this œ come from?

Also here I received some input: when Hahnemann composed his great works of homoeopathy, the spelling may have been influenced by which typewriter he had available to him - as ö is transcribed into œ.

Or, it might have been the translation into English that brought about this ö → œ transformation.

I therefore agree with Sherr that the original spelling with oeo - or œo - should be used in English! However, when using the Norwegian language, it feels more natural to use our letter ø, which is the equivalent to the German ö.

Either way, I agree with Jeremy Sherr that being conscious of the way spelling can contribute to forming the energy of the words we use, is a good thing; and I want to include here the symbolism that Sherr presented in his webinar:

œo – Vesica Pisces

Jeremy Sherr expressed that oe - œ - is homoeopathy's secret symbol: part of homoeopathy!

When removing the œ, simplifying it for the masses, we might make things more practical for ourselves and others; but what is lost?

Among his many skills, Samual Hahnemann was competent in linguistics:

By the time he completed his medical degree in 1779, he had mastered eight languages, and become an accomplished chemist.

  • Hahnemann chose the name of this new medical system intentionally
  • Homoeopathy is derived from Greek: homeois means similar or like, combined with pathos gives similar suffering
  • From Latin, first recorded in 1590-1600, homō means man/human, but literally the earthly one
  • Symbolically: oeo → like cures like: the two nothings that reflect each other

Jeremy Sherr shared a quote from Lao Tsu that I want to share with you too:

Thirty spokes share the hub of a wheel; yet it is its center that makes it useful. You can mould clay into a vessel; yet, it is emptiness that makes it useful. Therefore, something is shaped into what is; but its usefulness comes from what is not.

When omitting the original spelling, Sherr uses strong words to describe the result: homoeopathy dies! → home -apathy.

Another quote shared by Sherr, that I wish to share with you, is from Patricia Heatherly's book The Lacs: A Materia Medica Repertory

Homoeopathy - a potent part of my life was the slogan emanating from the Cambridge symposium where we discussed the need to honour our archaic roots; those of homoios which underpins the Similia principle. The diphthong contains Vesica Pisces, the most powerful of symbols associated on many levels with creation/potency. As a symbol it encompasses the notion of potential which is what aphorism 9 is all about.

Aphorism 9 refers to the ninth aphorism in Samuel Hahnemann's Organon of the Medical Art: with 291 aphorisms and related footnotes - together offering insights into how to practice homoeopathy in a sound way.

The following is aphorism 9, from Wenda Brewster O'Reilly's annotated edition (6. edition of the Organon):

In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force (autocracy) that enlivens the material organism as dynamics, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both feelings and functions, so that our indwelling, rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.

As we see in the image above, one side can represent the right part of the brain: the unconscious part of the mind, with the memory-database.

The other side can represent the left part of the brain: the ego-consciousness.

The middle can represent the pineal gland - and the third eye.

So even a simple issue like the spelling of homœopathy, can bring forth symbolic meaning for creation and potency - as well as principles of healing through similars: symptoms expressed on the one side, can be matched with characteristics in nature's treasure chest; so that the unique creation that is each individual, can regain balance and live as fully creating living beings on our planet.

What to choose?

Even though I am intrigued with Sherr's arguments, and the symbolism that he presented; the latter has probably come from the English translation - and or the type writers available in Hahnemann's time. It is all quite fascinating!

In Norwegian, however, it bears more resemblance to the original German spelling to use homøopati rather than homœopati. One thing is for certain: I am moving away from my use of homeopati/homeopathy from now on!

Except from in the url for my website ... and my email addresses ... It would be too messy to change those - and I would not be able to include the ø, anyway!