CRISIS: What is it, exactly?

crisis: c.1425, from Greek krisis "turning point in a disease" (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen), lit. "judgment," from krinein "to separate, decide, judge," from PIE base *krei- "to sieve, discriminate, distinguish" (cf. Gk. krinesthai "to explain;" O.E. hriddel "sieve". Transferred non-medical sense is 1627.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that all Greek and Latin words mean the same in English as they do in Spanish!

It's true that the economic troubles we're currently experiencing can be described as a crisis. Dictionary.com defines a crisis as:

1. a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
2. a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.

Both of those are good descriptions of what's happening in the economy now!

Recession, however, is a much more accurate word. A recession is defined as "a period of an economic contraction, sometimes limited in scope or duration", and when you think about it, this is a better way of describing what's happening because it is very specific to the economy. People understand that "crisis" means something negative, but it could be anything - it doesn't specifically refer to the economy.

If the economy gets much worse, then we need to use a totally different word: depression ("a period during which business, employment, and stock-market values decline severely or remain at a very low level of activity.")


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