Q. Why are great Catholic teachers of the past known as “Doctors” of the Church? Because their teaching is good spiritual “medicine”?
A. That’s a clever explanation! Actually, the term comes from the Latin word doctor, which literally means “teacher.” It’s related to our English word doctrine, literally, “teaching.”
In the old sense of the word, then, a doctor is actually a teacher, which is why college professors often have Ph.D.s — an abbreviation for “Doctor” (Teacher) of Philosophy.”
The standard generic term in English for someone in the healing arts is physician. The Latin word for this kind of “doctor” is medicus, related to our English word medicine. Maybe the question we should be asking is how physicians came to be called doctors!