Pain is not a timeless, simply mechanical phenomenon; it has been many things, in many places. ‘Pain concepts’ considers the vocabulary and historical conceptual range of pain used around the world. It first turns to antiquity where there was no clear distinction between pains of the body and pains of an emotional nature. Galen’s humorism was profoundly influential in the history of medicine inspiring physiological thinking until the 19th century, and the linguistic legacy remains with us. The categorical vernacular conflation of pain is also seen in Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic. In Western modernity, there has been an historic separation of vernacular knowledge of pain from medical specialism about pain.