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On the language of pain. By Ronald Melzack, Warren S. Torgerson. Anesthesiology 1971; 34:50–9. Reprinted with permission.The purpose of this study was to develop new approaches to the problem of describing and measuring pain in human subjects. Words used to describe pain were brought together and categorized, and an attempt was made to scale them on a common intensity dimension. The data show that: 1) there are many words in the English language to describe the varieties of pain experience; 2) there is a high level of agreement that the words fall into classes and subclasses that represent particular dimensions or properties of pain experience; 3) substantial portions of the words have approximately the same relative positions on a common intensity scale for people who have widely divergent backgrounds. The word lists provide a basis for a questionnaire to study the effects of anesthetic and analgesic agents on the experience of pain.