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Who are we, anyway?

Many people in the headache community refer to a person who gets migraines as a ‘migraineur.’ I disagree. I strongly prefer the term ‘person with migraine.’ Which is a better term?

Dr. William Young at the Jefferson Headache Clinic posed this question to a panel of 15 experts, academics, advocates, and patients. (I was a member of this panel.) I’ve written about this panel before. In this post, I want to focus on the question about what we should call ourselves. Are we migraineurs? Or are we people with migraine? In the end, our group was equally and passionately divided between the two terms.

Here’s a summary of what the two camps argued:

Migraineur advocates: People who liked ‘migraineur’ tended to argue that it was concise and sounded nicer than the awkward ‘person with migraine.’ They thought that ‘migraineur’ would always be acceptable in a medical context, although agreed that it might not be appropriate for use in broader audiences.

Person with migraine advocates: People who preferred ‘person with migraine’ argued that it was easier to understand than ‘migraineur.’ But, for me (as well as for about half the panel), the most compelling reason to use ‘person with migraine’ is because the term ‘migraineur’ problematically confuses the individual with the disease. ‘Migraineur’ suggests that migraine is an integral part of one’s identity. Of course, this feature of ‘migraineur’ might be a selling point for some people. It just isn’t for me.

So what do you think? Do you prefer to use ‘migraineur?’ Or will you adopt ‘person with migraine’? Why or why not?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Dee Daniel
    8 years ago

    As a person who suffers from Hemiplegic Migraines (less than.01% of the population) I am a Survivor.

  • Adele Schlazer Lester
    8 years ago

    Sorry, but after suffering with migraines with aura since I was ten, to waste time deciding what to call us is an insult. Spend the time raising $$ to find a cure!

  • Joanna Kempner
    8 years ago

    Adele, I’ve had migraines since i was a little girl, so I understand your frustration. But I would argue that language is fundamental to efforts to raise funds. For example, language is a really important part of public awareness campaigns about migraine. Thoughtful language may help change public perceptions about migraine.

  • Linda Sue Rivers
    8 years ago

    A person with Diabetes is called a Diabetic. Migraine is a disease, vascular disorder, the headache is just a symptom. In college, I was known as the girl with migraines. So, it identified me even though I participated in several clubs & organizations. I was young & refused to let it keep me down; I threw-up and wOre an ice pack.

  • Kelly Smith Wahle
    8 years ago

    This issue has been the same with so many other conditions: i.e. people who have quadriplegia/autism (instead of calling them quadriplegic/autistic). I took a special education class in undergrad instructing me to use the “person with____” model instead of using the -ic form.

    Now that I am a chronic Migraineur and a blogger, I feel it would be tedious to write “person with Migraine” every time or I am a “person with a Migraine”. I don’t write that I am a “person with a blog” instead of blogger. Mirgaineur=person with Migraine. They are interchangeable.

    My question is WHO is confusing the person with the disease in calling us Migraineurs? I NEVER thought that when I was referring to my community or friends that I was confusing them with their disease. I see them as whole people that have something in common with me.

    If a person is confused that they are their disease, whether or not they are called a “Migraineur” is not going to affect that. As people with chronic illnesses, we all go through a phase of “Am I my disease?” What you call us isn’t the issue. Once we’ve waded through our identity issues, we are able to separate who we are from the disease.

  • Danielle Turney
    8 years ago

    I like “Person with a chronic unseen disease”.

  • Mark Hutchence
    8 years ago

    It just titles and depends on how much it affects your life, more focus should be on DLA as I have recently gone through tribunal and even with letters from my consultant they threw the case out saying it was not a disability jut and illness!

  • StanandPam Peck
    8 years ago

    Don’t care what you call me…my head hurts!

  • Jennifer Cox
    8 years ago

    I say we are people who deal with miagraines I have bn getting them all my life I just deal with them an move on.

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