from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The art of healing.
  • noun Medical attendance.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Archaic The art of healing; skill of a physician.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The art or practice of healing or medicine.
  • noun The skill or expertise of a physician, medical knowledge; medical attendance.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English lechecraft ("practise of medicine"), from Old English lǣċecræft ("medicine"), from lǣċe ("physician, doctor") + cræft ("art, skill, craft"). More at leech, craft.


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  • Herbals are doubtless collected by many who are not possessed of medical knowledge, and a number of them treat more of simples and housewifery than leechcraft, which is probably one reason of their attraction for the non-medical collector.

    The Book-Hunter at Home P. B. M. Allan

  • When I first began studying Anglo-Saxon magic and medicine, I wondered why the big compendia like Bald's Leechbook and Leechbook III (both in MS Royal 12 D. xvii, for those who care about manuscript stuff) didn't have cures that involved the physicians applying blood-sucking leeches to the patients; it was only later that I realized that the use of the wormy leeches in "leechcraft" only came much later.

    Origins of "Leech" Richard Nokes 2006

  • Is it possible to get a copy of your leechcraft article?

    Unlocked Wordhoard Richard Nokes 2006

  • Roman, Arabian, and Syrian; and he was skilled in astronomy and in leechcraft, the theorick as well as the practick; he was experienced in all that healeth and that hurteth the body; conversant with the virtues of every plant, grass and herb, and their benefit and bane; and he understood philosophy and had compassed the whole range of medical science and other branches of the knowledge tree.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night 2006

  • Douban readily undertook to obey the commands of the Emperor, and remained by the bed of the patient until the dawn of morning, ready to support nature as far as the skill of leechcraft admitted.

    Count Robert of Paris 2008

  • I slept, belike to gather simples, for she is wise in leechcraft, and is tending the sick man.

    The Water of the Wondrous Isles 2007

  • Your leechcraft ere long would have had me walking on all fours like a beast.

    The Lord of the Rings Tolkien, J. R. R. 1954

  • For though all lore was in these latter days fallen from its fullness of old, the leechcraft of Gondor was still wise, and skilled in the healing of wound and hurt, and all such sickness as east of the Sea mortal men were subject to.

    The Lord of the Rings Tolkien, J. R. R. 1954

  • "Bring hither those skilled in leechcraft and let them look to the wounds of the Lord Gerard that he may be comforted."

    Huon of the Horn Norton, Andre 1951

  • "As for that," retorted the man in a sing-song voice, "no one can tell whether a medicine be antidote or poison, unless as leechcraft and chirurgery point out --"

    Under the Rose Frederic Stewart Isham


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  • The art of healing.

    Leeches have in earlier times been widely used in medicine as a way to remove ìbad bloodî from patients and to restore the balance of the humours or bodily fluids. After a century and a half in which they fell almost totally out of use, they are returning in some specialised areas, a practice called hirudotherapy, a term formed from hirudo, the Latin name for the little beasts.

    So it would be reasonable to assume that that's where leechcraft comes from. But this is a case where language trips us up. There have been two meanings for leech in English. The other one, long defunct, refers to a doctor or healer, from Old English lece, of Germanic origin.

    Though it's hardly an everyday word, you stand a good chance of coming across it in modern works of fantasy, to which it lends the necessary feeling of ancientness or otherworldliness, as in the late Andre Norton's Wizard's World of 1989: "But she was renewed in mind and body, feeling as if some leechcraft had been at work during her rest, banishing all ills."

    At one time a dog-leech was a vet, though that term could also serve as a pejorative name for a quack doctor. The ring finger was once called the leech-finger (also the medical finger and physic finger), a translation of Latin digitus medicus. We're not sure how it got that name, though some writers say it was because the vein in it was believed to communicate directly with the heart and so gave that finger healing properties, for example in mixing ointments. Engagement and wedding rings are traditionally put on that finger of the left hand for the same reason, which is why the vein became known as the vena amoris, literally "vein of love."

    (from World Wide Words)

    May 22, 2008