Protean

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 12 Feb 2021

Protean in standard English has the meaning of something that appears in many different forms. In the same vein, in radiological usage it is used to describe a condition which can assume multiple different guises. One of its classic uses is for the imaging appearance of osteomyelitis which can look like virtually anything.

It is derived from a name (see below) and therefore may be capitalized or non-capitalized.

Occasionally in medicine the term 'legion' is used in a similar manner. Legion used in this way means a "large number of".

History and etymology

From the Ancient Greek name Proteus, a god of the sea who was a shapeshifter, and therefore could take on an infinite variety of appearances 1.

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