Classification and external resources

Anna Haining Bates with her parents
ICD-10 E22.0, E34.4
ICD-9 253.0
DiseasesDB 30730
MedlinePlus 001174
MeSH D005877

Gigantism, also known as giantism (from Greek γίγας gigas, "giant", plural γίγαντες gigantes), is a condition characterized by excessive growth and height significantly above average. In humans, this condition is caused by over-production of growth hormone [1]in childhood before the long bone epiphyses closes.



The term is typically applied to those whose height is not just in the upper 1% of the population but several standard deviations above mean for persons of the same sex, age, and ethnic ancestry. The term is seldom applied to those who are simply "tall" or "above average" whose heights appear to be the healthy result of normal genetics and nutrition. It is usually caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland of the brain. It causes growth of the hands, face, and feet.[2] In some cases the condition can be passed on genetically through a mutated gene.[3]

Other names somewhat obsolete for this pathology are hypersomia (Greek: hyper over the normal level; soma body) and somatomegaly (Greek; soma body, genitive somatos of the body; megas, gen. megalou great). In the past, while many of them were social outcasts because of their height, some (usually unintentionally) found employment in Friedrich Wilhelm I's famous Potsdam Giants regiment.

Many of those who have been identified with gigantism have suffered from multiple health problems involving their circulatory or skeletal system.

In history, art and literature

Height discrimination may affect very tall people. The phenomena of gigantism existed all along history, with some nations and tribes taller than others.

Giant people

Where giants are depicted in the Bible, they are often seen as formidable enemies, or at least noteworthy people.[4]

The giants of Crete are listed in various historic sources, beginning with Titan, a Greek mythological giant, and including Gigantus, after whom giants and gigantism are named.[5] Rhodes is another island where giants were said to have lived, with the Colossus of Rhodes a giant statue of a giant patron god Helios. In Asterix at the Olympic Games (published to coincide with the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City), René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo depict a 'Colossal' Olympic player from Rhodes, whose family are all extremely tall. In Asterix in Normandy they meet giant Vikings who have a giant dog looking down at Dogmatix.

In modern literature and movies giants are depicted as initially feared but when met are seen as friendly:

In Roald Dahl's The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), most giants are scary except the BFG.

In The Princess Bride, Fezzik (played by André the Giant) is a giant on the brute squad, but turns out to be very gentle. In a a tribute to Andre posted on YouTube, he is quoted as saying that he enjoyed being on the film's set because outside it "Nobody looks at me."

In the film Big Fish (2003), Matthew McGrory plays Karl, a gentle giant, who is feared by the city and forced to eat people in order to save himself from starvation.

In the books and adaptions of the Alice in Wonderland Series byLewis Carroll The Red Queen has a big head, suffering from macrocephalia.

See also


  1. ^ "Gigantism" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^
  3. ^ In a Giant’s Story, a New Chapter Writ by His DNA - By Gina Kolata. The New York Times, January 5, 2011
  4. ^ Genesis: "In those days the Giants ruled the earth." Exodus: "And we were like grasshoppers in their eyes and so where we in our own eyes." Numbers: "The sole survivor of the Refa nation, Ogg king of the Bashan, his bed, a bed of metal, is still there - nine arms long and four arms wide, to this day." Deuteronomy: "And there [at Hebron] lived the three giants Shishai, Ptholmey and Ahiman." Samuel: "And the middle man came out, Goliath was his name, and his height was six arms and a pinkie." Note that King Saul, Goliath's opponent, was noted as an extremely tall man himself (being "from his shoulder blade and above others").
  5. ^ It is interesting to note that Goliath is a Greek name and that the Philistines originated from the Greek and other Mediterranean islands.

External links

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