The Grammarphobia Blog

Is a Band-Aid a securement device?

Q: A poster at my local hospital in Idaho uses the term “securement devices” for bandages, Band-Aids, and Velcro-like wraps that the techs put around my arm (along with gauze or a cotton ball) when I get blood drawn. This is a new one on me.

A: This use of “securement” is new to us too. But then “securement” is a noun that the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “rare” even in its recognized meanings.

The noun generally means “the action or an act of securing,” according to the OED, but that broad definition includes two more precise meanings.

One of them, now obsolete, is “making safe from or against”; the other is “ensuring or making sure.”

There are only a handful of OED citations for this second sense (“ensuring or making sure”), all from the 17th to the 19th century.

The first is from William Foster’s The English Factories in India 1622-23, a calendar of historic events. In this entry from 1622,  the OED provides the missing language in brackets:

“[Willoughby has also been furnished with money, and left to take his choice of means] for his best securmentt.”

The most recent OED citation is from an 1883 issue of the Century Magazine: “Liberty, however, is so highly prized that society condemns the securement in all cases of perpetual protection by means of perpetual imprisonment.”

However, a Google Timeline search finds examples dating up to the present. Most of these seem to use “securement” in its established senses, but there are also extended meanings in the mechanical sense—to fasten or make secure.

We found a lot of references relating to the security of freight being transported (“cargo securement systems,” for example).

But we also found medical usages. Recent phrases from medical literature include “securement straps” for wheelchairs, “intravenous catheter securement techniques,” and “sutureless securement devices.”

Our guess is that “securement” will remain in specialized technical language, but that it won’t cross over into everyday usage.

Why should it, when in most cases we could just as easily use “security” or “securing”?

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