OLD-TIME MEDICAL TERMS AND THEIR DEFINITIONS
Many times when reading an obituary or a death certificate, the cause
of death is somewhat a mystery because
medical terminology has changed over the decades. At times the fatal
affliction has become obsolete with medical
science achieving great strides in preventative medicine and vaccines,
the development of effective medicine and treatment regiments
and, in some cases, an improvement of living conditions in society as a
whole. Below are the more commonly used medical
terms and their definitions:
Ablepsy Blindness. Ague Malarial fever. American Plague Yellow Fever. Anasarca Generalized massive edema. Aphonia Laryngitis. Aphtha The infant disease thrush. Apoplexy Paralysis due to stroke. Asphycsia/Asphicsia Cyanotic and lack of oxygen. Atelectasis Defective expansion of the pulmonary alveolia at birth. Atrophy Wasting away, diminishing in size.
Bad Blood Syphilis. Bilious fever Typhoid, malaria, hepatitis or elevated temperature and
bile emesis. Biliousness Jaundice associated with liver disease. Black plague or death Bubonic plague. Black fever Acute infection with high temperature and dark red skin
lesions and high mortality rate. Black Pox Small pox. Black Vomit Vomiting old black blood due to ulcers or Yellow Fever. Blackwater Fever Dark urine associated with high temperature. Bladder in the throat Diphtheria. Bloody flux Bloody stools. Blood Poisoning Bacterial infection, septicemia. Bloody sweat Sweating sickness. Bone shave Sciatica. Brain Fever Meningitis, sometimes refers to sun stroke. Breakbone Dengue fever. Bright's Disease Chronic inflammatory disease of the kidneys. Bronze John Yellow Fever. Bule Boil, tumor or swelling. Cachexy Malnutrition. Cacogastric Upset stomach. Cacospysy Irregular pulse. Caduceus Subject to falling sickness or epilepsy. Camp fever Typhus, a.k.a. Camp diarrhea. Canker Ulceration of mouth or lips; herpes simplex. Canine madness Rabies, hydrophobia. Catalepsey Seizures, trances. Catarrhal Nose and throad discharge from an allergy or a cold. Cerebritis Inflammation of cerebrum or lead poisoning. Chilblain Swelling of extremities caused by exposure to cold. Child Bed Fever Infection following the birth of a child. Chin cough Whooping cough. Chlorosis Iron deficiency anemia. Cholecystitus Inflammation of the gall bladder. Cholelithiasis Gall stones. Cholera Acute severe contagious diarrhea with intestinal lining. Cholera morbus Characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps,
elevated temperature, etc. Could be appendicitis.
Chorea Disease characterized by convulsions, contortions and
Cold plague Ague which is characterized by chills.
Colic Abdominal pain and cramping.
Congestion Any collection of fluid in an organ, such as the lungs. Congestive chills Malaria with diarrhea. Congestive fever Malaria. Consumption Tuberculosis. Corruption An infection. Coryza A cold. Costiveness Constipation. Cramp colic Appendicitis. Crop sickness Overextended stomach. Cynanche Throat Disease. Cystitis Inflammation of the bladder.
Day Fever Fever lasting one day; sweating sickness. Debilitas Weakness of the body. Debility Lack of movement or staying in bed. Decrepitude Feebleness due to old age. Delirium Tremens "DT's", hallucinations due to alcoholism. Dentition Cutting of teeth in infants. Deplumation Tumor of the eyelids which causes hair loss. Devonshire Colic Exposure to lead.
Diary fever A fever that lasts one day.
Diphtheria Contagious disease of the throat.
Dock Fever Yellow Fever.
Dropsy Edema (swelling), often caused by kidney or heart disease.
Dropsy of the Brain Encephalitis.
Dry Bellyache Lead poisoning.
Dyscrasy An abnormal body condition.
Dysentery Inflammation of colon with frequent passage of mucous and
Dysorexy Reduced appetite.
Dyspepsia Indigestion and heartburn, symptons of a heart attack.
Dysury Difficulty in urination.
Eclampsy Symptoms of epilepsy; convulsions during labor.
Ecstasy A form of catalepsy characterized by loss of reason.
Eel thing Erysipelas.
Edema Nephrosis; swelling of tissues & Edema of lungs is congestive
heart failure, a form of dropsy.
Edema of Lungs Congestive heart failure, a form of dropsy.
Elephantiasis A form of leprosy.
Encephalitis Sleeping sickness, swelling of the brain.
Enteric fever Typhoid Fever.
Enterocolitis Inflammation of the intestines.
Enteritis Inflations of the bowels.
Epitaxis Nose bleed.
Erysipelas Contagious skin disease, due to Streptococci with vesicular
& bulbous lesions.
Extravasted blood Rupture of a blood vessel.
Falling sickness Epilepsy.
Fatty Liver Cirrhosis of the liver.
Fits Sudden attack or seizure of muscle activity.
Flux An excessive flow or discharge of fluid like hemorrhage or
Flux of Humour Circulation.
French pox Syphilis.
Galloping Consumption Pulmonary tuberculosis.
Gathering A collection of pus.
Glandular Fever Mononucleosis.
Gravel Kidney or Gallstones.
Great Pox Syphilis.
Green Fever or Sickness Anemia.
Grippe Influenza like symptoms.
Grocer's Itch Skin disease caused by mites in sugar or flour.
Heart sickness Condition caused by loss of salt from body.
Hectical complaint Recurrent fever.
Hematemesis Vomiting of blood.
Hematuria Bloody urine.
Hemiplegy Paralysis of one side of the body.
Hip gout Osteomylitis.
Horrors Delirium tremens.
Hydrocephalus Enlarged head, water on the brain.
Hydropericardium Heart dropsy.
Hydrothroax Dropsy in chest.
Hypertrophic Enlargement of organ, like the heart.
Hyperthrophy Excessiver development of an organ, such as the
thickening of muscle fibers, withut multiplication of parts.
Ictus Solis Sunstroke.
Impetigo Contagious skin disease characterized by pustules.
Inanition Physical condition resulting from lack of food.
Infantile Paralysis Polio.
Intestinal Colic Abdominal pain due to improper diet.
Jail fever Typhus.
Jaundice Condition caused by blockage of intestines.
King's Evil Tuberculosis of neck and lymph glands.
Kruchhusten Whooping cough.
Lagrippe or La grippe Influenza.
Lockjaw Tetanus or infectious disease affecting the muscles of the
neck and jaw if untreated, it is fatal in 8 days.
Long sickness Tuberculosis.
Lues Disease Syphilis.
Lues disease Venereal disease.
Lumbago Back pain.
Lung fever Pneumonia.
Lung sickness Tuberculosis.
Lying in Time of delivery of infant.
Malignant sore throat Diphtheria.
Marasmus Progressive wasting away of body, like malnutrition.
Membranous Croup Diphtheria.
Meningitis Inflammation of brain or spinal cord.
Metritis Inflammation of uterus or purulent vaginal discharge.
Miasma Poisonous vapors thought to infect the air.
Milk Fever, Undulant Fever Disease from drinking contaminated milk
Milk Leg Post partum thrombophlebitis.
Milk Sickness Disease caused by drinking milk from cows which had eaten
Morphew Scurvy blisters on the body.
Mortification Gangrene of necrotic tissue.
Myelitis Inflammation of the spine.
Myocarditis Inflammation of heart muscles.
Necrosis Mortification of bones or tissue.
Nephrosis Kidney degeneration.
Nephritis Inflammation of kidneys.
Nervous Prostration Extreme exhaustion from inability to control
physical and mental activities.
Neuralgia Discomfort such as a headache.
Painter's Colic Exposure to lead.
Palsy Paralysis or uncontrolled movement of controlled muscles.
Pemphigus Skin disease of watery blisters.
Pericarditis Inflammation of heart.
Peripneumonia Inflammation of lungs.
Peritonotis Inflammation of abdominal area.
Petechial Fever Fever characterized by skin spotting.
Phthiriasis Lice infestation.
Plague An acute febrile highly infectious disease with a high fatality
Pleurisy Any pain in the chest area with each breath.
Poliomyelitis or Potter's Asthma Fibroid Pthisis, Chronic wasting away or
another name for tuberculosis.
Pott's Disease Tuberculosis of the Spine.
Puerperal Exhaustion Death due to childbirth.
Puerperal Fever Elevated temperature after giving birth.
Puking Fever Milk Sickness.
Putrid Fever Diphtheria.
Remitting Fever Malaria.
Rheumatism Pain in the joints.
Rickets Disease of the skeletal system.
Rose Cold Hay fever.
Rottany Fever A form of child's fever.
Rubeola German Measles.
Sanguineous Crust A scab.
Scarlatina or Scarlet Fever A disease characterized by a red rash.
Scarlet Rash Roseola.
Sciatica Rheumatism of the hips.
Scirrhus Cancerous tumors.
Scorbutus Scurvy, lack of Vitamin C in diet.
Scotomy Dizziness, nausea & dimness of sight.
Scrivener's Palsy Writer's cramp.
Scrofula Tuberculosis of the neck lymph glands.
Scrumpox Skin disease or impetigo.
Scurvy Lack of vitamin C in the diet.
Senile Gangrene Hardening of the arteries.
Septicemia Blood poisoning.
Shakes Delirium tremens (DT's).
Shaking Chills or ague.
Shingles Viral disease with skin blisters.
Siriasis Inflammation of the brain caused by sun exposure.
Ship fever Typhus.
Siriasis Inflammation of the brain due to overexposure to the sun.
Sloes Milk sickness.
Smallpox Contagious disease with fever & blisters.
Softening of the brain Stroke or hemorrhage in the brain resulting in
softening of the tissue in that area.
Sore throat distemper Diphtheria or quinsy Spanish influenza.
Spanish Influenza Epidemic influenza.
Spotted fever Typhus or meningitis.
Sprue Tropical disease characterized by intestinal disorders and
St. Anthony's fire Named because the affected areas of the skin
are bright red in appearance.
St. Vitas or Viper's Dance Involuntary rapid jerking movements that
Stomatitis Inflammation of the mouth.
Stranger's fever Yellow Fever.
Sudor Anglicus Sweating sickness (see below).
Summer Complaint Diarrhea, usually caused by spoiled milk.
Swamp Sickness Malaria, typhoid or encephalitis.
Sweating Sickness Infectious & fatal disease common to United Kingdom
in the 15th century.
Tetanus Infectious fever characterized by high fever,
headache and dizziness.
Thrombosis Blood clot inside a blood vessel
Thrush Childhood disease characterized by spots on the mouth,
lips, and throat.
Tick Fever Rocky mountain spottted fever.
Toxemia of Pregancy Eclampsia.
Trench Mouth Painful ulcers along the gum line caused by
poor nutrition and poor oral hygiene.
Tussis Convulsiva Whooping Cough.
Typhus (Typhoid Fever) Infectious fever characterized by high fever,
headache and dizziness.
Viper's Dance St. Vitus Dance.
White Swelling Tuberculosis of the bone.
Winter Fever Pneumonia.
Womb Fever Infection of the uterus.
Worm Fit Convulsions associated with teething, worms, elevated temperature or diarrhea.
Yellowjacket Yellow fever.
Compiled by Sharon R. Becker, 2008