Peds? When you say “watch the peds,” how exactly should I take that?

The word “peds” has more meanings than most people think about. Today’s post is to clear up some of the ambiguity about this shorthand phrase, and talk about some of the ways it has worked its way into our everyday language. Read on to find out all the ways to use this term, and what unintended meanings to watch out for.

Breaking up the confusion

We will disambiguate these seven uses and homonyms:

1) Feet

The first and most obvious use of peds is to describe feet. Because this is from the latin root, it is safe to say this language has been with us for a very long time.

Ancient statue showing feet, also known as peds.  This is from Cyprus dating to the early to mid 6th century B.C.
Feet of a colossal male statue, 6th century B.C., Cypriot.
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

In fact you might recall the scientific name for things that go on two feet as bipeds. Four footed creatures are known as quadrupeds. In fact anything with more than one foot is a multiped (or as an adjective multipedal). And you guessed it, there are words for both six and eight legged creatures, but they pick up the greek root “pod,” hexapod and octopod respectively.

Image of H.G. Wells Martian Tripod, as illustrated by Henrique Alves Corrêa for the 1906 French edition.
Martian tripod
from the 1906 edition of H.G. Wells’
The War of the Worlds

Most life on earth is characterized by having bilateral symmetry, or an even number of limbs on each side. But science fiction is teeming with speculation about beings with uneven appendages like heptapods, which would be seven legged aliens! H.G. Wells 1898 The War of the Worlds featured Tripods, or three legged fighting machines.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please don’t step on my feet!

2) Shoes

In addition to the feet that fit inside of them, shoes are often referred to as peds as well. Humans have been wearing shoes for close to 10,000 years. The earliest shoes were sandals and moccasins. Today we have dozens of types of shoes which we wear for work, play, comfort, and style.

Comfortable shoes, often called "peds,"  in the sunlight

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please don’t scuff up my shoes!

3) Pedestrians

Just some people walking. The word pedestrian describes a person walking in the same space where motor vehicles are operating. Along a road, for example. Pedestrians are of course just the plural form.

Pedestrians, sometimes called peds, crossing the street.
Pedestrians; Image courtesy Jay Mantri

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please drive carefully and don’t run into those people walking near the car!

4) Pedestrian (as in ho-hum everyday boring)

Instead of saying “that novel is so pedestrian,” meaning dull or nothing new here, you might instead use the shortcut . . . as in “this book is so peds, I’m not going to bother finishing it.”

Old looking books.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please make sure you are not being BORING!!!

5) Pediatrics (abbreviation PEDS)

The medical profession typically abbreviate the study of children, or pediatrics, to P.E.D.S. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics regularly uses this shortened form.

A pediatrician, practioner of pediatrics also known as PEDS, holds a stethescope

So when I say “watch the P.E.D.S.,” I mean observe what these doctors who practice Pediatrics are doing.

6) Children

While medical practitioners of pediatrics refer to their patient, they revert to the latin root of their discipline’s name, referencing the children they treat as “peeds.” But there is no actual accepted spelling for that term, and it can be found as “peds” as well, although often pronounced by medical professionals with a long e sound.

Children, also known as peds, holding hands walking down street.
Will you be my friend?

In slang usage, the short e pronunciation comes into play, often children referring to even younger children in a mildly derogatory way, as in “what are those peds doing playing on my baseball diamond.”

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please be careful not to bump into the children nearby.

7) Performance Enhancing Drugs

Just say no! Performance enhancing drugs are often shortened to the acronym P.E.D. by the various agencies and sports federations that monitor their usage by athletes.

Most sports ban drug use by competitors. Examples of banned drugs include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), beta-blockers, stimulants and diuretics. And these are just the start of some very long lists that run into many pages for some sports. The US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) has a guide which spells out what drugs are prohibited and how athletes will be tested.

Bicycle Race

Hundreds of athletes have been sanctioned or banned from participating in their sport after testing positive for drugs. There is a staggeringly long list on Wikipedia.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean stay off those drugs or you will be disqualified from your sport.

Could peds have even more meanings?

There are likely another dozen meanings, or at least variations on the definitions above. For example we didn’t show some of the other latin or greek forms like Peditatus for infantry foot soldier, etc. because we would never use them like we might the ones on the list.

Nor did we go very far with the greek root “pod” with its influence on iPods, tripods, and learning pods.

Just for fun . . . a Pedometer records the number of steps we take, Pedomotive means a conveyance powered by feed (think Fred Flintstone), Pedopathy describes any disease effecting feet, Pedoplania is the phrase for flattening of the foot, Pedagogy or Pedagogical describes the art of science of teaching or methods of teaching, and a Pedicure is cosmetic care for the feet and toenails (getting your nails done).

And there are other real word examples. For instance, there is an actual socks and leggings company called Peds, maybe you even own some of their products.

Tell us about how you use peds!

If you use “peds” in any other way that you think is worth sharing, please let us know in the comments below. And also check out all of our other posts related to words and language.

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