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Coeliac / celiac / coelaic / coeliacs identity crisis

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When you were first diagnosed with coeliac disease (or your loved one was), you probably thought that navigating the complex world of gluten-free living would be the only confusing stumbling block you’d come across. But a quick look at the Coeliac UK website search records suggests otherwise – who knew that just the spelling of a word could be so baffling? We’re all bound by a condition that still many people can’t pronounce or spell.

You have probably heard your condition called many different things over the years. From ‘celiac’ to ‘coelaic’ and of course, the ubiquitous ‘coeliacs’, we’ve seen almost every incarnation of the word you can think of. While the number of people who think coeliac is pronounced ‘kholiac’ is reducing over time, we’re still seeing from searches on our website, that spelling ‘coeliac’ is still not easy for many.

And let’s face it – that’s hardly surprising, given that it’s a difficult word and people are coming to us for information. So let’s break it down and start at the beginning. It’s not celiac / coeliac / coeliac or coeliacs. It’s coeliac disease. The word ‘coeliac’ itself originally comes from the Greek root ‘koilía’ meaning ‘belly’. That’s the reason for the slightly tricky ‘o’. A lot of vowels can trick the eye, which is probably why the American spelling drops one to make ‘celiac’ – for some people that’s probably easier, but we love the quirkiness of the English language, so have a soft spot for that silent ‘o’.

Some people may abbreviate by removing the word ‘disease’ but this is not strictly correct as ‘coeliac’ (or ‘coeliacs’ in plural form) is sometimes used to refer to a person or people with coeliac disease in a medical context. It’s understandable if some people don’t like the word ‘disease’, but the fact is that coeliac disease deserves to be taken seriously as an autoimmune condition.

Whether you go for the American version, abbreviate away, or just sometimes write ‘coelaic’ as a typo, the important thing is that we’re here to help. If you don’t know the difference between coelaic / coeliac / or celiac, or if you have any questions at all about the condition, then we’re here to answer any questions you might have.  

3 October 2016

In: Community

2 comments on this post


Hi I was 50 when diagnosed which was 25 years ago but my son was born a coeliac in 1966 so he is 52 this year
The doctors knew very little at that stage and I wrote to many many companies for help and Heinz were amazing
Now it's a completely different story
They blamed it on the rationing during the war that limited my mother to what we'd be able to get to eat

15 February 2018 09:39 PM


I was diagnosed with coeliac in 1954 after originally been found to be milk intolerant. In those days no g/f food was available and I had to go to Gt Ormond Street for regular checks. Over the years the understanding of the problem has obviously greatly improved. One question I never seem to find an answer for is the older you get I am now in my sixties what problems it can cause in later life as regardless of how well you manage your diet there are certain things over the years your body may not have had the benefit of.

31 December 2017 05:54 PM

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