Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Sanitarium and Sanitorium

Sanitarium vs Sanitorium

“Sanitorium” and “sanatorium” are the same. “Sanitorium” and “sanatorium” refer to a medical facility which is specially run for patients who are suffering from long-term illnesses. These facilities were mainly associated with people who were suffering from tuberculosis. Before antibiotics were introduced, this disease had to be fought only with the help of a patient’s own immune system kicking in. So these facilities were built to separate the people infected from the rest of the population, give them ample nutrition, clean air, and plenty of rest. “Sanitarium” can also relate to a medical facility. Sometimes “sanitarium” is also used for health resorts. These health resorts serve the same purpose; though in this modern age they are not only for the treatment of tuberculosis.

The first sanatorium was opened in 1863 by Hermann Brehmer in Silesia which is now in Germany for tuberculosis treatment. In Europe, sanatoriums became quite common in the 19th century. Some of the first European countries to have established sanatoriums were Switzerland, Finland, and Portugal. In 1885, the first sanatorium in the U.S. was established in New York. In the U.S., sanatoriums were started and became common in the 20th century. Some of the states where they were established were: Arizona, Virginia, Colorado, and Florida.

In 1904, the National Anti-Tuberculosis Association was founded. One of the founders, Dr. R. G. Ferguson, who was also the pioneer in treating tuberculosis decided to coin a term which was distinguishable from “sanitarium,” which actually meant “health resorts.” He, along with the other founders, wanted to coin a term which would emphasize more on TB treatment. The word “sanatorium” was derived from the Latin verb “sanare” meaning “heal” rather than using the Latin noun “sanitas” which meant “health.”

After the discovery of streptomycin by Albert Schatz, the sanatoria started getting closed as a cure had been developed, and people could rely on medicine rather than just their immune systems. Many of these facilities were turned into general hospitals. Some of them were demolished as by 1950, tuberculosis was no more a threat to public health. Some of them were transformed into facilities for people suffering from mental illnesses, etc. In the U.S., the term “sanatorium” was used for psychiatric hospitals in the 20th century commonly after the tuberculosis facilities were shut down.

In the Soviet Union, “sanatorium” is used for recreational facilities and resorts for patients who need short-term medical services. They are more like medical resorts or spas.


The terms “sanitarium” and “sanitorium” are used for the same medical facilities which were used for the treatment of tuberculosis before the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered.

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  1. Just stumped upon this site. Immensely useful. Thanks.

  2. False. The term sanitArium was generally used to denote long term mental facilities, while a SanitOrium was a facility for long-term physical illness, and became synonymous with tuberculous hospitals.
    So in summary,
    Sanitarium = mental asylum
    Sanitorium = tuberculosis hospital

    • No Patrick, Why not read the full article before assuming you know better?

      “In the U.S., the term “sanatorium” was used for psychiatric hospitals in the 20th century”

      The original meaning of both words was the same and was only adopted later on to refer to mental hospitals. You can find both words used in conjunction with the treatment of TB pre 1900.

  3. Thank you, Patrick!

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