The words dwarf and midget both refer to someone who may be shorter than normal. You may have used these terms interchangeably to refer to a short person, but there is a difference in both words. A midget is different from a dwarf because a midget will have normal bodily proportions. It is also quite important to point out that the term "midget" is considered offensive, so it is better to use the term "little person" to refer to a dwarf or a midget. Keep reading to find out more about the difference between midget and dwarf.
Difference Between Dwarf and Midget
While many people don't understand it, there is a clear difference between midget and dwarf. A dwarf is the outcome of a genetic mutation at the 4th chromosome, which will result in disproportionately short limbs. The term midget usually describes a person of short size but with normal proportions.
Another difference is that the term "dwarf" is a medical condition and is not considered offensive, which is not the case with the word "midget". The word midget becomes even offensive when someone use it to describe dwarfism. Similarly, the condition called dwarfism can affect humans as well as plants and animals, whereas midget refers to humans only.
Although both conditions are the outcome of a genetic disorder and midgets and dwarfs can have a height less than 4 feet 10 inch, you can identify dwarfs with malformed bones, joint disease, nerve compression, and disoriented growth of some organs.
When considered etymologically, the word midget is the combination of "midge" and "et". Midge means, "small fly", and the word midget means "very small fly". The word was first mentioned in 1848 in Canada to refer to "sand fly". In Old English, however, the word used was "mycg", which had its root back to an Indo-European era. On the other hand, the word dwarf has Germanic roots and is from "dhwergwhos" meaning "tiny". It was noted as "dweorg" in Old English and referred to "person of very small stature".
What Causes Dwarfism?
Now, you know that even if there is no difference in midget height and dwarf height, you can find other differences to differentiate between the two. Once you know the difference between dwarf and midget, it is also important to understand exactly what causes dwarfism, a medical condition caused by a genetic disorder.
A person who is shorter than 4 feet 10 inches is considered a dwarf in medical science. Although a midget height may be the same, it will have other differences as well. The average height for a person with dwarfism is 122cm or 4 feet.
The experts believe that dwarfism is due to different genetic disorders, but they don't know the exact causes of these disorders yet. In most cases, it occurs due to a random genetic mutation in the mother's egg or in the father's sperm.
A person may be very short due to a hereditary condition called Achondroplasia in which the growth of long bones is retarded – this results in short limbs. About 80% of people with this condition are born to parents of average height. The real problem here is not about the formation of cartilage, but it is about converting it to bone. The average height of a person with Achondroplasia is 4 feet, 4 inches only. It is worth mentioning that Achondroplasia is a common type of dwarfism, occurring in 1 in 15,000 newborns.
The condition only affects women and girls and is the outcome of a missing sex chromosome (the X chromosome). It is sometimes partially missing or is not present at all. A female gets an X chromosome from her mother and father, but she suffers from Turner Syndrome when one of the X chromosome is missing. She will have one functional copy of the female sex chromosome only. This disorder affects the development in females, resulting in very short stature.
Growth Hormone Deficiency
The deficiency of growth hormone may also lead to dwarfism, and is usually considered as outcome of a genetic mutation or injury. For most people, it is hard to identify any cause for this deficiency.
In addition to Turner Syndrome, growth hormone deficiency, and Achondroplasia, there can be some other causes of dwarfism, such as poor nutrition and deficiencies in other hormones. It is not always possible to identify a cause though.
Are There Any Treatments for Dwarfs/Midgets?
It is common to ask the difference between dwarf and midget, but it is equally common to ask if there are any treatment options for midgets or dwarfs. Unfortunately, there aren’t many treatment options available because the condition of dwarfism results from genetic disorders. Sometimes, the use of dress enhancements such as shoe lifts, etc., helps improve the aesthetics of dwarfs. Sometimes, growth hormones are also used, but they don't prove that effective either. The only option that may help add a few inches to the limbs is limb-lengthening surgery. It is, however, quite expensive and not available everywhere.