What did they call an adrenaline rush before they discovered adrenaline?

This is something I’ve wondered about in the context of historical fiction and fantasy*– presumably people have known about the boost from excitement/anger/fear pretty much forever. But the name “adrenaline” only dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century. So there must have been some other name for it from before.

*I’ve seen the term “adrenaline rush” used in several fantasy stories. Stories with pre-industrial settings– there is no way anyone there would know a “hormone” as anything but the noise a prostitute makes. I know it’s “translation convention”, but I find it jarring all the same.

One guess might include ‘thrill’, which originates from the old english word ‘pierce’, which was used in the old expression “pierced by emotion”. It seems tangentially related to the action of something getting injected into the blood, at least in hindsight. Though users of the expression back in the day must have related to the experience of something changing or being added inside them to explain the response.

I’d also add the phrase “getting one’s blood up”, but that seems limited in usage for only when adrenaline was increased due to anger.

Catharsis, perhaps?

There’s “going beserk”. It’s an old phrase that dates back to the Vikings. The original meaning was that a Viking warrior was taken over by the spirit of a bear and would therefore fight like a wild animal. When the Vikings faded away in the late Middle Ages, the term also stopped being used. But it was revived in the 19th century when authors began writing historical adventure novels about the Vikings. From there, it entered into general usage.

Thrilling = Prickling. It’s the pricking of the skin.

I guess that must have been Brandon Sanderson’s reasoning.

For various contexts:
All riled up
An excess of Blood (humorists)
In a state

The red mist

Good one! and “seeing red” follows it.

some phrases i remember reading from medieval literature:

  • consumed/ moved with excitement
  • great haste
  • high-strung
  • violently overpowered with…
  • sanguine nature (considering that the theory of the bodily humors ran popularly)

“Hot” covered a variety of heightened emotions and eagerness for excitement, but perhaps that’s not the same as actually experiencing the excitement.

I’ve just remembered a line from Dryden about some hotheads spoiling for a fight: “The sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine”.

Google Ngram Viewer records “battle fever” as first appearing in the early 1860’s (US Civil War?) and hanging around, with some fluctuations in popularity, ever since.

I’m not sure there would necessarily be a single term, as there are different ways to feel when you get one. It can be a panic. It can be a surge of anger. It can be a runner’s high. It can be a sudden fright. It can be a burst of energy.

To me, none of those really feel the same. Yet they are all blamed on Adrenalin rushes.

The vapors.


Nah, “the vapors” traditionally was more about feelings of faintness, distress, fear, depression, and so on, rather than the energy surge we associate with “adrenaline rush”.

In a passion, e.g. a passion of rage or a passion of fear?

From the movie Moby Dick, 1956. So the concept of one’s blood being up as an equivalent to an adrenaline rush dates back to at least…heh, 1956? Still, a wonderful line.

There are a lot of chemical rushes we get that are not necessarily Adrenalin. I was at a council meeting last night. One of the speakers who was very nervous about speaking beforehand got up and gave her little speech, she received a nice round of applause. It was obvious that she somehow chemically responded to the applause as this calm, confident aura took her over and for the rest of the night she spoke slowly and decisively as if she was the one to be listened to. It was kind of comical.

To be more specific, “the vapors” were a catchall term for female complaints, everything from PMS to menopause. It was thought to arise from emenations given off by the womb. A lot of these complaints, such as depression and bipolar disorder, were actually no different than male disorders.

Excuse me, all this thought of females has given me the fantods…