“Clear and precise definitions of diseases and the application of such names to them as are expressive of their true and real nature are of more consequence than they are generally imagined to be: Untrue or imperfect ones occasion false ideas and false ideas are generally followed by erroneous practice." by Percival Pott in his Chirurgical Works (1765)
Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.
Loss or impairment in the ability to walk.
Blindness. (Greek: ablepsia)
This word was believed to have magic healing powers when inscribed on an amulet. Its origin is from the Aramaic language: abra meaning "to create" and cadabra meaning "as I say." It was first mentioned in the second century book Liber Medicinalis, or De Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla, who prescribed that malaria sufferers wear an amulet containing "abracadabra" written in the form of a triangle.
A medicine which posses the power to deterge or cleanse parts as wounds and ulcers.
Achilles, son of the king Peleus and sea-goddess Thetis, was a fearless warrior in Homer's Iliad. As an infant his mother had dipped him in the river Styx in order to make him safe in battle while holding him by his heel which did not get wet. Apollo informed Paris of that vulnerability who then caused Achilles' death by aiming an arrow at his unprotected heel.
A small pustule containing a straw colored fluid on the head of young children.
The larynx and its protective cartilage is prominent in males. The myth is that when Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit some of the apple got caught in his throat and made a lump. Also the term may be a mistranslation from the old Hebrew word for bump that is similar to the word for apple.
Heat in the constitution and little serum in the blood.
A disorder of the whole body or part of it: as febrile affection or cutaneous affection, etc.
A disease of the tongue.
Intermittent chills and fever (as in malaria or sepsis).
A 15th and 16th century ceramic pharmacy jar with a narrowed waist. (Italian: alberello bottle and Latin: albus white)
Blindness secondary to another disease.
An object worn on a part of the body to protect against illness or accidents. (Arabic: hamalet meaning a pendant)
Generalized fluid retention. The most common causes of edema and ascites are the low albumin of renal or liver diseases but may also be caused by congestive heart failure.
A sudden small ulcerous swelling, a whitlow.
An analgesic for pain relief. (Greek: without pain)
A medicine which gently opens the bowels.
A medicine which facilitates the upward expulsion of mucous from the mucous membranes of the digestive or air passages.
Sudden paralysis, perhaps by stroke, or bleed into the brain or other organ.
An abscess or swelling filled with purulent matter.
Apple of Your Eye
Since ancient times sight has been regarded as something special. The pupil is round and has the appearance of an apple so the phrase has been applied to anyone who is especially precious.
Fluid collection in the abdominal cavity.
Loss of strength, debility.
Chorea with peculiar tremors of the fingers and toes.
A fever that prevails largely in autumn such as typhoid and malaria.
An oily resinous (balm) substance used as a base for some medications. (Greek: balsamaon)
Ringworm of the beard.
A paralytic disorder peculiar to India and the Malabar coast considered to be the same as chronic beriberi.
Croup in children.
Debilitation from alcoholism.
Referring to an individual totally unable to manage the easiest of tasks. The term came from the US military following WWI and referred to soldiers who had lost limbs and had to be transported by way of a basket.
Beading of the Ribs
Rachitic rosary or prominent costochondral joints as seen in disorders of calcium and vitamin D metabolism.
Bellyharm or Bellywark
From the earliest of times mineral concretions from the internal organs of animals were felt to contain magical properties, especially as antidotes to poisonous substances. The first ones were transported to Europe from Western Persian goats.
Fever, nausea, and diarrhea as a symptom of diseases including typhoid, malaria, and hepatitis.
Bills of Mortality
Beginning in the 17th century these were examples of "casualities" or causes of death in London that were posted: bit by mad dog, broken skull, burnt, choaked, drowned, excessive drinking, executed, found dead, frightened, froze to death, killed by falls, made away themselves, murder'd, overlaid (a mother accidentally smothering her child in bed), poisoned, scalded, shot, smothered, stabb'd, starved, and suffocated.
A long, narrow knife with a straight or curved blade for opening cavitiesr. (French: bistouri, dagger) A bistoury cache is a spring loaded, double bladed instrument used in Urology.
Bite the Bullet
This term applies to the ability to undergo an unpleasant experience with grace and calm. There is a debate regarding whether or not "bullets" were given to soldiers to bite on during major surgical procedures such as amputations in the 19th century when anesthetics were not always available. Lead shot has been found near hospitals with what appear to be teeth marks, though may be animal in nature. The term first appeared in a definition of nightingale in Francis Grose's "A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" in 1796: "Nightingale -- A soldier who, as the term is, sings out at the halberts. It is a point of honour in some regiments, among the grenadiers, never to cry out, or become nightingales, whilst under the discipline of the cat of nine tail; to avoid which, they chew a bullet." Later in 1891 the term again appeared in print in "The Light That Failed" by Rudyard Kipling: "Bite on the bullet, old man, and don't let them think you're afraid." But no medical application has been documented in print so "biting the bullet" during surgery remains a controversial subject.
An alcoholic liquid containing a bitter substance used as a flavoring or as a tonic to increase the appetite.
Liver infection carried by rats: Wiel's Disease.
A sloughing syphilitic ulcer encountered by British soldiers in Portugal.
Chronic lung disease as a result of exposure to coal dust.
Probably typhoid fever though according to some an epidemic erysipelas.
Dark urine and high temperature as a complication of malaria when there was hemolysis.
A pustule or a sore.
A chronic catarrhal inflammation of the eyelids.
Sepsis or organisms in the blood stream.
Blood Turned to Water
Weak-willed or physically weak.
Dysentery with bloody stools.
Blowing Smoke up Your Rear End
Meaning that you are being inflated by insincere flattery; in 18th century England drowning victims were resuscitated by getting tobacco smoke bellow enemas which included the stimulant nicotine.
From the Spanish "sangre azul" and attributed the aristocracy of Castile some of whom claimed never to have intermarried with others of darker races. Their resultant light skin showed up the blue color of their veins.
A venereal disease.
Whooping cough accompanied by cyanosis caused by obstruction of the blood vessels in the face.
Cyanosis or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
A painful circumscribed pus-filled inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissue.
A cylindrical instrument used for dilating tubular organs, such as the urethra or esophagus. (French: Bougie, an Algerian seaport from which candles were imported).
The vernacular name under which is included enteritis, convulsions, diarrhea, and dysentery.
Inflammation of the brain or meninges as in encephalitis or meningitis.
A mental disorder characterized by confusion or dementia.
A mental disorder; insane or mad.
A hernia or a rupture.
Break a Leg
Superstition plays a big role in the theatre so the best thing one can do is to wish a performer bad luck so hopefully he or she will have good luck. This practice is documented to have started in the early part of the 20th century.
The "dengue triad" of fever, rash, with severe muscle and joint pains causing contortions endemic throughout the tropics and subtropics.
Kidney disease which is accompanied by fluid retention and often kidney failure (described by Dr. Richard Bright).
Loss of energy.
Foul smelling perspiration.
Inflammatory swelling or suppuration of a lymph node usually in the groin.
Yellow Fever (named by the natives of the African coast).
Murder by suffocation originally committed by William Burke in Edinburgh in the early part of the 19th century for the purpose of obtaining anatomic material for dissection.
Ruptured or hernia (Anglo-Saxon term).
A kind of intermittent fever attended with copious stools.
A poisoned condition of the blood.
Bad state of pulse.
The evacuations in yellow fever which resemble sandy mud.
A mild fever of tropical climates. (Latin: calere to be warm)
A febrile delirium said to be peculiar to sailors wherein they imagine the sea to be green fields and will throw themselves into it if not restrained.
Early purgative and diuretic containing mercurous chloride, dangerous if abused. (Greek: beautiful and black)
A term used for all of the continuing fevers experienced by the army: Typhoid, Typhus, and Malaria Fever. The last named is a combination of elements from the first two diseases. Symptoms included chills followed by an intermittent fever, abdominal tenderness and nausea, general debility, diarrhea, and furring of the tongue.
Rabies or hydrophobia.
Mouth or lip ulceration.
The green beetle Spanish Fly with perceived aphrodisiac and diuretic properties. (Greek: kantharis beetle and eidos shape)
A large globular bottle used to hold liquids. (Persian: large glass flagon)
An ulceration of the bone.
Female orgasm in a doctor's office.
"Shock" by fright.
Upper respiratory tract infection with inflammation of the mucous membranes, mucous.
A substance that cleanses the bowels.
A long, double-edged knife, often used in amputations.
The expression comes from 15th century Scotland probably from individuals caught with blood on their hands from poaching or from murdering. It was made popular with Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe in 1819: "I did but tie one fellow, who was taken redhanded and in the fact, to the horns of a wild stag."
Forcepslike instrument with a screw handle, used to crush the head in fetal abortion. (Greek: kephale, the head + tribo, to bruise)
A chalklike concretion of urate of sodium found in small joints; a tophus.
A quack physician. (Italian: ciarlare meaning “to chatter”)
A skin infestation caused by the larva of the red mite featuring an itchy red rash to the waist, ankle, and skin folds.
The painful itching or swelling of an extremity caused by poor circulation when exposed to cold.
Puerperal fever or infection of the mother at birth.
Whooping cough (pertussis).
Gout involving the hand.
A disease primarily of adolescent females characterized by delayed menarche, weakness, anorexia, moodiness, poor skin color: iron deficiency anemia or "green sickness."
Any infectious disease that is epidemic.
A diarrhea prevailing during cholera epidemics.
Jerky involuntary movements.
An infant who died near the time of baptism (before they received a name).
An enema used for rectal administration of medications. (Greek: klyster, to wash out)
Severe abdominal pain caused by spasm, obstruction, or distention of any of the hollow viscera, such as the intestines.
Cool as a Cucumber
In early days physicians believed that an overabundance of blood caused fever so patients were commonly phlebotomized and given cucumber seeds to lower their temperature; thus the expression "cool as a cucumber."
A stimulating preparation usually containing alcohol with supposed medicinal value, especially for the heart. (Latin: cor, heart)
A substance which when placed in contact with living parts acts indirectly or directly in destroying those parts.
Costs an Arm and a Leg
This means that something is very expensive. A popular (though inaccurate) explanation is that early portrait painters charged more if an arm was included and even more for the addition of a leg. The earliest citation is found in a magazine called "The Lady's Magazine: Or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement" in 1790: "This is my sole desire—my only passion; and in order to gratify it, I would give my right arm, and my entire fortune." The expression became popular after WWII in light of the losses suffered by veterans during the war.
A substance or device that irritates one area of the body presumably to relieve pain in another part.
A popular English term for menses.
Covent Garden Ague
Appendicitis which often lead to sepsis, rupture and death.
A strong forceps used for crushing and extracting the fetal head after perforation. (Greek: kranion, skull + klao, to break in pieces)
A hooked instrument used for removing an aborted fetus. (French: croche, hook)
Laryngitis, strep throat.
Cupping (wet and dry)
The act of applying a heated cup to bring blood to the skin to act as a counterirritant (dry), or to bleed (wet).
Inflammation of the throat.
Dancing Plague (or Mania)
St. Vitus' Dance.
See Breakbone Fever.
The substances left after the heating or boiling of herbs which were often used as medications, coffees, teas, or tinctures. (Latin: de coquere, to cook)
Elderly and feeble.
A key shaped instrument used to remove teeth.
(Synonyms) alvine flux, Delhi belly, dysentery, flux, loose bowels, Montezuma's revenge, quickstep, runs, shits, trots, turista
Fever that lasts only one day.
Local elevation of temperature of tissues by high frequency current, ultrasonic waves, or microwave radiation for therapy. (Greek: dia, through, + therme, heat)
Any disease, likely an infectious disease.
Yellow Fever that was often brought ashore by inbound ships.
Fluid retention (from heart, liver, or kidney disease).
Any faulty state of the constitution or an abnormal bodily condition, especially of the blood.
Intestinal inflammation with passage of mucous and blood.
A difficult delivery.
Instrument used to crush tissue. (French: ecraser, to crush)
Fluid retention most noticeable in the lower extremities.
An offensive exhalation or smell.
Abortion when it occurs prior to three months
A therapeutic device that creates static electricity.
Elevator (dental or neurosurgical)
An instrument used to lift a tooth or piece of bone. (Latin: e-levo, to lift up)
A (sometimes magical) sweetened liquid containing alcohol and another substance used used as a medication.
Liniment. (Greek: embroche lotion, from en + brechein to wet)
A substance that makes something soft or supple. (Latin: emolliens to soften)
Medications used to promote sneezing or a nasal discharge (Greek: en + rhin, in nose)
Skin infection with group A streptococcus, see St. Anthony's Fire.
A small pocket case for instruments. (French: estuier, to preserve)
A skin rash accompanying any eruptive disease or fever.
Falling of the Bowels
Bowels protruding from the anus generally caused by a debility of the part, piles, drastic purgatives, or violent straining at stool.
Typhus or any acute epidemic contagious fever.
(Synonym) BM, bowel movement, crap, dropping, dung, excreta, faeces, poop, shit, stool, turd
Infection that generates purulent matter and worsens. (Latin: from fistula, pipe)
A wench who has the venereal disease.
A seizure or convulsion usually caused by epilepsy.
A sharp lancet for bloodletting (Greek: phleb, vein + tomon, to cut)
Movable downwardly displaced kidney felt to be the cause of a number of internal unrelated conditions.
Uterine hemorrhage in puerperal fever or from another condition.
An old English name for hemorrhagic smallpox.
Excessive discharge of any fluid (blood, stool, mucous), usually a term for diarrhea or dysentery
Forceps (bullet, dental, lithotomy, obstetric)
An instrument to grasp a structure for compression or traction. (Latin: formus, hot + ceps, to take)
Fourteen Day Fever
See Great Pox.
Frog in Your Throat
Secretions of frogs were used to treat sore throats and it was also believed that by placing a live frog in the sufferer's mouth the frog would inhale the disease.
A place at the back of the elbow (humerus bone) where the ulnar nerve is close to the surface so that when it is hit a tingling sensation is felt.
A foul smelling and blackened condition of limbs caused by infection requiring amputation.
A collection of pus.
Kyphosis or deformity of spine.
A plant tuber with presumed medicinal properties including as a stimulant and an aphrodisiac. (Chinese: man, herb)
Give your Eyetooth
In early days the canine or eyetooth was removed as a punishment so those who considered breaking the law were forced to weigh whether or not they would give their eyetooth for the object of their desire. Extraction of this particular tooth carried increased risk since a resultant cavernous sinus infection could extend directly into the orbit.
Chronic inflammation accompanied by an abnormal discharge.
God Bless You
The plague comes in two forms, bubonic and pneumonic. The most common was the first (spread by rat fleas) but the most deadly was the latter (by droplet spread). Pneumonic plague had a 100% mortality and the first sign was to sneeze. During a sixth century outbreak Pope Gregory the Great began the custom of saying "God Bless You" to those who sneezed so that they might ultimately go to heaven.
Gout or rheumatism of the knees.
A director or guide with a wide groove used in lithotomy. (Middle English: gorge, throat)
Excess uric acid crystals in a joint (usually the foot) causing great pain.
Small kidney stones expelled in the urine.
In old England one out of twenty five coffins had scratch marks on the inside making it clear that people had been buried alive. As a precaution family members would tie a string to the wrist of the departed and attach it to a bell above ground. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be “saved by the bell."
Syphilis (though confused with gonorrhea) and to be distinguished from the Smallpox.
The disease of maids occasioned by celibacy. Love melancholy, also iron deficiency anemia. (see chlorosis).
Early term meaning depression often causing a physical illness along with a mental disorder.
Grippe (or La Grippe)
A small granuloma characteristic of advanced syphilis.
Hair of the Dog
This is part of a longer expression "the hair of the dog that bit you." The ancient belief was that treatment with the hair of a dog that bites someone could be used as a curative for the toxins of the bite. By extension an antidote against the hangover that follows excess alcohol intake should be another drink or two.
When sutures of the brain overlapped in infants caused by a difficult delivery or by Rickets.
Recurring fever with chills and sweating.
Paralysis of one side of the body as from a stroke.
To be hanged or to have been stabbed with a Bridport dagger since Bridport was a place famous for manufacturing hemp into cords.
Neurosurgical instrument for removal of a section of the skull (by Dr. William Hey).
Holding a Wake
The custom of drinking ale or whiskey in lead cups would sometimes knock out drinkers for several days. They would be laid out on the kitchen table in preparation for burial while the family would gather around eating and drinking to see if individuals would wake up -- and so the custom of "holding a wake."
Alternative medicine by Samuel Hahnemann with the belief that small substances that cause symptoms of disease in the healthy cure those diseases (similia similibus curentur).
Varicella (Chicken Pox).
Delirium tremens from alcohol withdrawal.
Inflammation of the brain.
Consumption (or Tuberculosis).
Humour (or Humor)
Any fluid substance in the body including blood, bile, phlegm, chyle, or lymph.
Dropsy or an accumulation of water in a cavity.
Orgasm. (Greek: hysyerikos, suffering in the womb)
Thin bad matter.
Relating to or caused by a stroke or seizure.
"Hell's Fire" or Erysipelas.
Violent abdominal pain with vomiting of fecal matter.
A collection of purulent matter in an abscess or cyst. (Greek: apostema separation of pus into an abscess)
In the Pink
Meaning healthy. Early English fox hunters wore scarlet colored jackets called pinks. If you are wearing your pink, you were ready to go hunting.
A general term for any morbid condition of any part of the body named after the tissue involved: for example inflammation of the kidney (nephritis), lung (pneumonia), stomach (gastritis), throat (tonsillitis), etc.
A trademark substance resembling ivory.
The spread of abnormal electrical activity from one area of the cerebral cortex to adjacent areas.
Jaundice (or Jaunders)
Yellowness of the skin usually caused either by gall bladder or liver disease.
In medieval times most marriages took place in June because most took their yearly baths in May. Since brides were starting to smell by June they carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor, a custom we continue today.
Any skin disorder induced by a tropical climate.
Kaffir Milk Pox
Variola Minor (smallpox).
Keep an Eye Out
Sailors used single tubed telescopes to look for danger and other ships. Thus the term "to keep an eye out."
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
In the 17th century "pill" (often spelled "peel") meant to cheat and later "to remove." In mid 19th century US the term meant to remove a covering of the eye so perhaps one could see better.
Tuberculosis of the neck and lymph glands.
A fit of coughing.
Kinkcough (or Kinkhaust)
Pertussis (whooping cough).
Lancet (gum, spring, thumb)
A surgical knife with a short, wide, two-edged blade. (French: lancette)
An term used when suppuration or drainage occurred at a wound site thought incorrectly to be a good sign that the unhealthy humours were being discharged by the patient (rather than that the infection was getting worse).
Tincture (with alcohol) of opium.
A looseness or diarrhea.
A medicine which gently opens the bowels.
A medicine which allays irritation or palliates disease.
Neurosurgical instrument used to elevate fragments of skull (L. lenticula, a lentil).
Ridges and furrows on the forehead and cheeks of patients with advanced lepromatous leprosy giving a lion-like appearance.
To phlebotomize or bleed.
In ancient Greece the red liver of a sacrificed animal before a battle was regarded as a good omen. On the other hand if the liver was pale then the outlook for the battle was grim. The liver of a coward was thought to be pale or "lily livered."
An abnormal appetite during pregnancy as in chalk-eating, fondness for slate pencils, or other.
An instrument used to crush a urinary stone. (Greek: lithos, stone + klastos, broken or Latin: tritus, to rub)
Cutting for the stone.
Light brown, red or black spots on sun (ultraviolet radiation) exposed skin formerly and incorrectly thought to be secondary to liver disease.
Having an enlarged liver.
Long in the Tooth
Meaning to get older. Horses' gums recede with time making their teeth look longer and additionally a groove in the upper incisor elongates as the horse gets older.
Loosing or Saving Face
18th century nobles rarely bathed and so used a lot of perfume. They wore a great deal of makeup and the layers built up. Sitting too close to the heat of the fireplace could cause the makeup to melt requiring a servant to move the screen in front of the fireplace to block the heat and thus prevent their masters from "losing face."
A rheumatic pain in the small of the back.
Displacement or misalignment of a joint or organ.
The time of delivery.
Mad as a Hatter
In the past many hats were made using mercurous nitrate, a substance toxic to the central nervous system. The symptoms exhibited by hat makers included a tremor along with altered behavior leading many to conclude that these individuals were "mad." This disease was famously suffered by The Mad Hatter in Lewis Caroll's "Alice in Wonderland."
Make No Bones About It
This is a reference to the unwelcomed discovery of bones in your soup in 15th century England. There would be no objection should you not find bones in your meal so for anything you accepted you made no bones about.
A plant of the nightshade family that resembles the human form with presumed magical properties used in the past to promote conception and as a cathartic and analgesic. This substance has hallucinogenic properties and is the substance placed in witches' brews to cause altered mental states. (middle English mandragora)
An excess of black bile characterized by irascibility or depression. (Greek: melan + chole bile)
Distension of the abdomen from wind in the bowels that takes place in acute diseases suddenly and unexpectedly as does the appearance of a meteor in the heavens.
Inflammation of the uterus.
A form of Middle Eastern relapsing fever.
The belief that diseases were generated by “bad air” formed from rotting food, waste, and feces found in overcrowded inner city environments.
A disorder of the liver with tumor, inflammation, pungent pain, and blackness of the tongue.
Scurvy blisters of the body.
A quack physician meaning "one who stood on a bench."
Colic or a griping of the intestines.
Before the Civil War tuberculosis in African Americans was believed to be caused by dirt eating though obviously that was disproven.
Noli Me Tangere
Meaning "touch me not." A name given to lupus because of its being aggravated by most kinds of treatment.
A severe often gangrenous inflammation of the mouth or genitals occurring usually after an infectious disease in malnourished children.
A medication sold with false or exaggerated claims and little or no effectiveness.
Not a Pot to Piss In (see Piss Poor)
In the 16th century families urinated in a pot and sold skins placed there to a tannery since the urea broke down to ammonia which softened and tanned the skins. You were really poor if you couldn't even afford to buy the pot.
OD refers to the right eye."Dexter" is Latin for right and is the side of honor so the bearers coat of arms in early shields was on the right. The eagle in the Great Seal of the United States carries the olive branch in his right talon meaning it is of more importance (with arrows in the left).
OS refers to the left eye. In Latin "sinister" refers to the left, evil or wrong side and is the derivation for the same word today. Left handedness has always carried with it a negative stigma.
A device for studying the interior of the eye through the pupil. (Greek: ophthalmos relationship to the eye + skopeo, to examine)
Drainage from the ear.
An instrument for examining the eardrum. (Greek: ous, ear + skopea, to view)
A foul ulcer in the inside of the nostrils.
A form of oxygen (O3) that is produced by a static charge and was thought to have health benefits. (Greek: ozein, to smell)
A remedy which only relieves a disease without curing it.
Loss of sense or motion of a part of the body.
A boat-shaped dish used to hold pap (a soft food for infants). (Latin: pappa, food)
Quinsy or infection of the throat sometimes leading to abscess.
(see hysteric paroxysm).
A medication sold without a prescription and promoted by a specific maker.
A small hammer used to tap part of the body in order to determine density. (Latin: percussio, to beat)
An obstetric instrument for making a bony opening through the cranium in abortion (Latin: perforare, to bore through)
A contagious disease of the mouth in children at the angles of the mouth.
An appliance introduced into the vagina to support the uterus. (Latin: pessarium, from Greek: pessos, an oval stone used in certain games)
The appearance of the skull presumably reflecting enlargements of parts of the brain and so an individual's character – according to FJ Gall. (Latin: phren, mind)
Medicine or a purgative.
The study of personality by appearance. (Greek: physi, nature + gnomon, interpreter)
The pathological habit of eating many different objects including metal, glass, hair, and earth (geophagia). Some associate this disorder with an iron deficiency and it may be seen in pregnancy and as a cultural habit in societies across the world.
Slowly progressive dementia.
Mercury poisoning in children.
Urine used to be employed in tanning animal skins. Families all urinated in a pot and then sold the skins placed there to a tannery; you were "piss poor" if you had to do this to survive. (See "not a pot to piss in.")
Plague of Venus
An oblong plate placed on the body and struck with a percussor. (Greek: plesso, to strike, + metron, measure)
Infection of the vertebrae from tuberculosis resulting in marked curvature of the spine (described by Percival Pott).
Lung inflammation in potters working in Staffordshire.
A moist, warm soft medication or herb made into a paste that is spread under a cloth that is placed over the skin of an infected or painful part of the body to draw out the disease. (Latin: pultes, porridge).
Syphilis or gonorrhea (also Great Pox distinguished from the Smallpox: variola).
A flexible rod with a soft tip to advance or retrieve an esophageal foreign body (from provang, by inventor Walter Rumsey).
Maternal (often fatal) sepsis secondary to poor sterile technique at delivery. See Childbed Fever.
A laxative. (Latin: purgativus, purge)
A disease in which there are small distinct purple specks and patches.
Intermittent fever with the paroxysms recurring every fourth day.
Tonsillitis which sometimes progressed to a abscess of the throat.
Intermittent fever which recurs every day.
Alternative medicine dedicated to treating diseases by using various radio waves to neutralize the different sine waves produced by each disease.
Premature softening of an organ.
A term for the sound in the throat of dying persons arising from the accumulation of mucous.
Red Herring (in a diagnosis)
Smoked (or red) herrings in 19th century England had a very strong scent, strong enough to mask other smells. A red herring pulled across the trail could divert hounds pursuing a fox so the phrase came to mean any false trail.
Red Tongue Fever
Causing contraction of body tissues, checking blood flow, or restricting secretion of fluids.
Medications such as Solomon’s Balm of Gilead and Brodum’s Cordial which were purported to return to the recipient all those powers lost by masturbation.
The drawing of disease or congestion from one part of the body to another by counterirritation.
Vitamin D deficiency resulting in weakened bones and subsequent bow-legged individuals.
Abscess or an inflammatory swelling; also for a subjective sensation of something moving from the periphery toward the brain.
Rising of the Lights
"Lights" as a early term for lungs so used to describe pleurisy and croup among other conditions, usually in children.
This is the grin and raised eyebrow appearance secondary to the spasm of facial muscles characteristic of tetanus (along with strychnine poisoning and Wilson's disease). The term is derived from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.
Rocks in Your Head
An early practice by quack doctors was to go from town to town curing the insane by palming a rock and pretending to remove "the rock of insanity" from those afflicted. Before it was realized that there was no improvement the doctor was on to the next town. That's why we claim that an individual exhibiting bizarre behavior has rocks in his head.
A slowly enlarging ulcerated basal cell carcinoma, usually on the face.
Plasmodium falciparum malaria.
Characteristic exanthema of typhoid fever: 10-20 small pink papules on the lower trunk lasting a few days and leaving hyperpigmentation.
Inflammatory disease with redness, itching, and the discharge of a watery exudation which dries up leaving crusts called tetter or milk crust.
A green fetid fluid consisting of pus discharged from a wound, ulcer, or fistula.
Blood poisoning caused by putrefactive bacteria.
A nonalcoholic drink with plants of the genus Smilax of the lily family added used to treat skin and blood diseases. (Spanish: zarzaparrilla)
Saved by the Bell
(see graveyard shift).
Ringworm or porrigo of the scalp.
A knife used in surgical dissection. (Latin: scalprum, a knife)
An instrument for making multiple superficial incisions in the skin for wet cupping. (Latin: scarifico, to scratch)
An acute disease of childhood caused by Group A streptococcus characterized by a bright scarlet-colored eruption over the entire body.
A dense cancerous growth arising from connective tissue.
Epidemic dysentery (10th century).
Scorbutus (see Scurvy)
Characterized by livid spots on the skin, offensive breath, spongy gums, with occasional hemorrhage from the mouth and nostrils, swelling of the legs, etc. (vitamin C deficiency).
Scrofula (see Struma and King's Evil)
Tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes of the neck most common in children.
Impetigo contagiosa among British children.
Lack of vitamin C was characterized by bleeding gums and often found in seafarers who lacked fruit in their diet. Sailors in the Royal Navy prevented this disease by bringing lemons on board and so were called "limeys."
Ringworm or tetter.
A dyed, untanned leather or sharkskin used for etuis or lancet cases.
A degenerative disorder of the central nervous system characterized by tremor and impaired muscular coordination; Parkinson's Disease.
Herpes Zoster of the skin.
Medications made from a single herb.
Involuntary flow of saliva, drooling, slobbering, driveling, and (Old English) Pirtling.
A medication that induces sleep. (Latin: somnus for sleep)
An elongated, cylindrical instrument, used for exploring, dilating, or detecting a foreign body in a cavity or canal (usually urethra, or esophagus).
An instrument for opening a canal or cavity for inspection. (Latin: a mirror, from specio, to look at)
Gangrene of an extremity.
A febrile disease typically characterized by a skin eruption such as typhus, meningitis, and tick-borne rickettsiae.
St John's Evil
St. Andrew's Disease
St. Anthony's Fire
Ergotism was a skin disorder produced by the Claviceps purpurea fungus which infects rye and other cereals. Also a skin infection with group A streptococcus, see erysipelas.
St. Sement's Disease
St. Vitas Dance
Uncoordinated jerking movements characteristic of Sydenham's Chorea.
Medications applied to the nose to induce sneezing. (Latin: sternutatorius or sneezing)
Usually gall-stone but sometimes in the kidneys.
Restricted or painful urination.
Goiter or enlargement of the thyroid gland often secondary to iodine deficiency in the diet.
A device or instrument to stop bleeding. (Latin: stypticus, to contract)
To form or discharge pus. (Latin: suppurare sub + pus)
A wasting of the body characterized by emaciation and weakness with fever.
Tertiary syphilis resulting in a hardening of the dorsal columns of the spinal cord with shooting pains, wasting, loss of muscular coordination, and disturbances of sensation and digestion.
St. Vitus' Dance.
A hooked instrument used to hold a blood vessel that is to be tied off. (Latin: teneo, to hold)
Vesicular skin diseases including ringworm, eczema, psoriasis, or herpes.
The Royal Disease
Morbus Regius or jaundice which brings with it the color of gold.
Throwing Out the Baby with the Bath Water
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house bathed first in the clean water followed by other men, then the women, the children, and finally all the babies. By then the water was so dirty that you didn't want to accidentally throw out the baby with the bath water.
Infection of the mouth and throat often caused by a fungus.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
An alcoholic extract of a plant or animal often used as a medication, either for topical or oral use.
A medication that promotes vigor and strength. (Greek: tonos tension)
Horny (or artificial) plate from a turtle that was used in 19th century instruments.
A “T” shaped instrument used for removing a disk of bone, usually from the skull, also a verb. (Latin: tres fines, three ends)
Trismus (also Lockjaw)
Tonic spasm of the muscles of the jaw from disease of the motor branch of the trigeminal nerve associated with tetanus.
A sharp instrument with a three cornered tip that fits into a cannula, used to remove fluid from a cavity. (French: trocart, from trois, three, + carre, side of a sword blade)
Swollen, distended body part.
Gas or air collection causing swelling.
A species of Leprosy in which the skin may be easily withdrawn from the flesh.
Under the Weather
Sailors who became seasick by rough seas and the rocking motion of the ship were sent below deck where the sway of the boat was not as exaggerated and where they were further away from the weather.
Typhoid Fever, also hypochondriasis or hysteria.
A dilated vein, artery, or lymph vessel.
A single bladed curved instrument used to aid in delivery. (Latin: a lever or bar)
Therapeutic bloodletting. (Latin: vena, vein + sectio, a cutting).
A house whose inhabitants had the plague.
A raised mark on the skin.
The aura of epilepsy.
Waterjugs (or Waterpox)
Meaning the anus with the expression "up the" or "out the" wazoo meaning an excess of anything. The term seems to have originated in the United States in the early 1960's but unfortunately the derivation is unknown.
Consumption or tuberculosis.
A raised mark on the skin.
A harmless cyst usually on the scalp or face containing the fatty secretion of a sebaceous gland.
A small swelling on the skin as from an insect bite that usually itches or burns.
White Death (or Plague)
A herpes viral infection resulting in a painful blister on one of the digits.
Wool Sorters' Disease
Cause of death in children when worms were flound in stools.
Shingles or herpes zoster.
Broken. (Greek: klastos)
To cut (Greek: tomos, cutting) – craniotomy (Greek: kranion, skull), lithotomy (Greek: lithos, stone)
Flowing of fluids as in "diarrhea" or "amenorrhea."
To examine, G. skopeo.
Cutting instrument (Greek: tomos, cutting), rachitome (Greek: rachis, spine), tonsillotome (Latin: tonsilla), urethretome (Greek: ourethra)
To rub L. Tritus, to rub.