(Greek > Latin: bodily malformations; from "seal fins"; a sea calf)

phocomelia (s) (noun), phocomelias (pl)
1. The defective development of arms or legs, or both, so that the hands and feet are attached close to the body, resembling the flippers of a seal.
2. An anomaly in which the hands or feet (or both) are attached directly to the shoulders or hips.
3. A congenital malformation (birth defect) in which the hands and feet are attached to abbreviated arms and legs.
4. Absence or markedly imperfect development of arms and forearms, thighs and legs, but with hands and feet present.
5. Etymology: a combination of Greek phoco-, "seal (flipper)" and Greek melia, "limb, extremity" to designate a human limb like a seal's flipper which is a consequence of exposure in modern times of the developing fetus to thalidomide medication.

An historical example of a phocomelic.
Here is an example of phocomelia from the 16th century.

Word Info image © Copyright, 2006.

Recent chromosomal studies have suggested that, in addition to the drug-induced anomalies, other cases of phocomelia may have a genetic basis

Phocomelia was probably recognized in the early years of Babylonian rule, because the teratologic records of Chaldea mention an infant with hands and feet like fish tails or fins.

The 1675 French edition of the surgical text of Scultetus contains an illustration of a case of phocomelia with harelip, an association that has since been observed by others.

A great reputation was achieved by malformed Marc Cazotte, who presented himself to public exhibition during the latter part of the eighteenth century, with the name Pépin. He had no arms and legs; his hands were attached to his prominent shoulders, his feet to his hips.

He was described as a clever man, with a mastery of four languages and with great manual dexterity, Pépin traveled around Europe on horseback, where he attracted large crowds. He died at the age of 62 in Paris, where his skeleton is preserved in the Musée Dupuytren.

—Compiled from excerpts in Obstetrics and Gynecology,
Dr. Harold Speert, Parthenon Publishing Group, 2004.
phocomelic (adjective), more phocomelic, most phocomelic
A reference to anyone who has an absence or significant imperfect development of arms and forearms, thighs and legs, but who has hands and feet.
phocomelic dwarfism (s) (noun), phocomelic dwarfisms (pl)
A condition of being much smaller than an average person in which the shafts of the long bones are abnormally short or the intermediate parts of the limbs are absent.
phocomelus (s) (noun), phocomeli (pl)
1. A person who has an abnormal development of arms or legs, or both, so that the hands and feet are attached close to the body, resembling the flippers of a seal.
2. A fetus or postnatal individual with abnormal arms and/or legs.
A modern example of a phocomelic with his mother.
Thomas Quasthoff, afflicted with phocomelia,
is shown here with his mother.

Word Info image © Copyright, 2006.
phocomely (adverb), more phocomely, most phocomely
1. A reference to a congenital malformation in which the proximal portions of the extremities are poorly developed or absent: The phocomely characteristic example shows the hands and feet being attached directly to the body (trunk) or by means of a poorly formed bone.

In some cases, this phocomely abnormal condition was the result of a pregnant woman taking thalidomide, a sleeping pill, during early pregnancy.

2. Etymology: from the resemblance of the flippers of a seal; from Greek phoke, "a seal" + melos, "a limb, an extremity"; such as, the hands and feet.

A modern example of a phocomelic.
Thomas Quasthoff of Germany is a well-known
"phocomelic" singer and voice teacher.

Word Info image © Copyright, 2006.

A talented bass-baritone singer and voice teacher

Thomas Quasthoff was born in Hildesheim, Germany, on November 9, 1959. He is a German bass-baritone generally regarded as one of the finest singers of his generation.

Quasthoff has proven to have a remarkable range from the Baroque cantatas of Bach to solo jazz improvisations.

He was born with serious birth defects caused by his mother's exposure during pregnancy to the drug thalidomide which was prescribed as an antiemetic to combat her morning sickness.

Thomas Quasthoff is unusually short, about four feet tall, as a result of the shortening of the long bones in his legs, and he has phocomelia of the upper extremities with very short or absent long bones and flipper-like appearances of his hands. In medical terms, Quasthoff has thalidomide syndrome.

Quasthoff is a full-time voice professor and performer. Prior to his music profession, he worked for six years as a radio announcer for NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk) or the North German Broadcasting company, a public radio and television broadcaster, located in Hamburg, Germany.

—Compiled from information provided by
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Links to related end words Related bodily-malformation word units: melo-, -melia; terato-, tera-.