You will sometimes see diabetes referred to as diabetes mellitus. This is an old-fashioned name for the disease.
Mellitus is a Latin word meaning ‘honey’ which was added to the word ‘diabetes’ several hundred years ago. It refers to the sweet taste of the urine of a diabetic, which had been noticed by doctors in Greece, China, India, Egypt and Persia thousands of years ago.
Yes, that’s right, in those days doctors used to taste the urine of their patients for the sake of an accurate diagnosis!
We now know that the sweet taste is due to excess glucose (a type of sugar) in the urine of diabetics. As this happens with all diabetics, the word ‘mellitus’ is now considered superfluous and is seldom used.