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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Humorism \Hu"mor*ism\, n.

  1. (Med.) The theory founded on the influence which the humors were supposed to have in the production of disease; Galenism.

  2. The manner or disposition of a humorist; humorousness.


n. 1 (context medicine historical English) The theory of the influence of the humors in the production of disease. 2 The manner or disposition of a humorist; humorousness.


Humorism, or humoralism, was a system of medicine detailing the makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by the Indian Ayurveda system of medicine, and Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person—known as humors or humours—directly influences their temperament and health.

The humoralist system of medicine was highly individualistic, for each individual patient was said to have their own unique humoral composition. Moreover, it resembled a holistic approach to medicine as the link between mental and physical processes were emphasized by this framework. From Hippocrates onward, the humoral theory was adopted by Greek, Roman and Islamic physicians, and became the most commonly held view of the human body among European physicians until the advent of modern medical research in the nineteenth century. The concept has not been used in medicine since then.

The four humors of Hippocratic medicine are black bile (, ), yellow bile (, ), phlegm (, ), and blood (, ), and each corresponds to one of the traditional four temperaments. A humor is also referred to as a cambium (pl. cambia or cambiums).