Historical Medical Terms
Historical Medical Terms
This is a list of medical terms that might be found on
old death certificates, family records, even in obituaries
I am in the process of adding to this list, so check back
if you don't find what you are looking for.
There are no references to food poisoning from eating undercooked red meat, but there
are bacterial infections which can occur if a medium rare steak temp is not properly
checked. Making sure that a medium rare steak temp is at least 135 F should kill
any bacteria on the outer surface of the meat.
Abscess: A localized collection of pus buried in tissues, organs, or confined spaces of the body, often accompanied by swelling and inflammation and frequently caused by bacteria
Acute Mania: Severe insanity
Addison's Disease: bronzed skin disease; characterized by severe weakness, low blood pressure, and a bronzed coloration of the skin
Ague: Malarial fever or intermittent fever. Chills, fever and sweating.
American plague: Yellow fever
Anasarca: Generalized massive edema
Aphtha: The infant disease "thrush"
Apoplexy: Stroke. Sudden loss of consciousness followed by paralysis due to a hemorrhage in the brain.
Asphycsia/Asphicsia: Cyanotic and lack of oxygen
Atrophy: Wasting away or diminishing in size.
Bad Blood: Syphilis
Bilous fever: Typhus, sometimes intestinal or malarial fever.
Biliousness: Jaundice associated with liver disease; may also have been any upset leading to vomiting bile or just vomiting
Black plague or death: Bubonic plague
Black fever: Acute infection with high temperature and dark red skin lesions and high mortality rate
Black pox: Black Small pox
Black tongue: Typhoid fever.
Black vomit: Vomiting old black blood due to ulcers or yellow fever
Blackwater fever: Dark urine associated with high temperature
Bladder in throat: Diphtheria
Blood poisoning: Septicemia.
Bloody flux: Dysentery.
Bloody sweat: Sweating sickness
Bone shave: Sciatica
Brain fever: Typhus or meningitis.
Breakbone: Dengue fever
Bright's disease: Chronic inflammatory disease of kidneys
Bronze John: Yellow fever
Bule: Boil, tumor or swelling
Cacogastric: Upset stomach
Cacospysy: Irregular pulse
Caduceus: Subject to falling sickness or epilepsy
Camp fever: Typhus.
Canine fever or Canine madness: Rabies, hydrophobia.
Canker: Ulceration of mouth or lips or herpes simplex
Catalepsy: Seizures / trances
Catarrh: Inflammation of a mucous membrane. Cough, thirst, fever.
Cerebritis: Inflammation of cerebrum or lead poisoning
Chilblain: Swelling of extremities caused by exposure to cold
Childbed fever: Puerperal fever, infection following the birth of a child.
Chin cough: Whooping cough
Chlorosis: Iron deficiency anemia
Cholera: Acute severe contagious diarrhea with intestinal lining sloughing
Cholera morbus: Characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps,elevated temperature, etc. Could be appendicitis
Cholecystitus: Inflammation of the gall bladder
Cholelithiasis: Gall stones
Chorea: Disease characterized by convulsions, contortions and dancing
Cold plague: Ague which is characterized by chills
Colic: An abdominal pain and cramping
Congestive chills: Malaria
Congestion: Any collection of fluid in an organ, like the lungs
Congestive fever: Malaria
Consumption: Tuberculosis. A wasting away of the body.
Coryza: A cold
Cramp colic: Appendicitis
Crop sickness: Overextended stomach
Croup: Laryngitis, diphtheria, or strep throat
Cyanosis: Dark skin color from lack of oxygen in blood
Cynanche: Diseases of throat
Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder
Day fever: Fever lasting one day; sweating sickness
Debility: Lack of movement or staying in bed
Decrepitude: Feebleness due to old age
Delirium tremens: Hallucinations due to alcoholism
Dengue: Infectious fever endemic to East Africa
Dentition: Cutting of teeth
Deplumation: Tumor of the eyelids which causes hair loss
Diary fever: A fever that lasts one day
Diptheria: Contagious disease of the throat
Distemper: Usually animal disease with malaise, discharge from nose and throat, anorexia
Dock fever: Yellow fever
Dropsy: Edema, holding fluids in abnormally large amounts, often caused by kidney or heart disease
Dropsy of the Brain: Encephalitis
Dry Bellyache: Lead poisoning
Dyscrasy: An abnormal body condition
Dysentery: Severe diarrhea, inflammation of colon with frequent passage of mucous and blood
Dysorexy: Reduced appetite
Dyspepsia: Indigestion and heartburn. Heart attack symptoms
Dysury: Difficulty in urination
Eclampsy: Symptoms of epilepsy, convulsions during labor
Ecstasy: A form of catalepsy characterized by loss of reason
Edema: Nephrosis; swelling of tissues
Edema of lungs: Congestive heart failure, a form of dropsy
Eel thing: Erysipelas
Elephantiasis: A form of leprosy
Encephalitis: Swelling of brain; aka sleeping sickness
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 and bulbous lesions
Extravasted blood: Rupture of a blood vessel
Falling sickness: Epilepsy
Fatty Liver: Cirrhosis of liver
Fits: Sudden attack or seizure of muscle activity
Flux: An excessive flow or discharge of fluid like hemorrhage or diarrhea, dysentery.
Flux of humour: Circulation
French pox: Venereal disease, usually refers to syphilis.
Furuncle: Boil or abscess.
Gathering: A collection of pus
Glandular fever: Mononucleosis
Gleet: See Catarrh.
Gravel: Kidney stones.
Great pox: Syphilis
Green fever / sickness: Anemia
Grippe/grip: 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
Heat stroke: Body temperature elevates because of surrounding environment temperature and body does not perspire to reduce temperature. Coma and death result if not reversed
Hectical complaint: Recurrent fever
Hematemesis: Vomiting blood
Hematuria: Bloody urine
Hemiplegy: Paralysis of one side of body
Hip gout: Osteomylitis
Horrors: Delirium tremens
Hospital fever: Typhus.
Hydrocephalus: Enlarged head, water on the brain
Hydropericardium: Heart dropsy
Hydrophobia: Fear of water caused by the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies.
Hydrothroax: Dropsy in chest
Hypertrophic: Enlargement of organ, like the heart
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
Lockjaw: Tetanus or infectious disease affecting the muscles of the neck and jaw. Untreated, it is fatal in 8 days
Long sickness: Tuberculosis
Lues disease: Syphilis
Lues venera: Venereal disease
Lumbago: Back pain
Lung fever: Pneumonia
Lung sickness: Tuberculosis
Lying in: Time of delivery of infant
Malignant fever: Typhus.
Marasmus: Progressive wasting away of body, like malnutrition
Membranous Croup: Diphtheria
Meningitis: Inflations of brain or spinal cord
Metritis: Inflammation of uterus or purulent vaginal discharge
Miasma: Poisonous vapors thought to infect the air
Milk fever: Disease from drinking contaminated milk, like undulant fever or brucellosis
Milk leg: Post partum thrombophlebitis
Milk sickness: Disease in cows transmitted to infants. Chills, vomiting, trembling, gastrointestinal disorders.
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
Nepritis: Inflammation of kidneys
Nervous prostration: Extreme exhaustion from inability to control physical and mental activities
Neuralgia: Described as discomfort, such as "Headache" was neuralgia in head
Palsy: Paralysis or uncontrolled movement of controlled muscles. It was listed as "Cause of death"
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
Phthisis: Chronic wasting away or a name for tuberculosis
Plague: An acute febrile highly infectious disease with a high fatality rate
Pleurisy: Inflammation of the membranes lining the chest cavity. Chills, fever, dry cough, pain in the affected side.
Poliomyelitis: Polio Potter's asthma - Fibroid pthisis
Pott's disease: Tuberculosis of spine
Puerperal exhaustion: Death due to childbirth
Puerperal fever: Septicemia following childbirth.
Puking fever: Milk sickness
Putrid fever: Diphtheria or Typhus
Remitting fever: Malaria
Rheumatism: Any disorder associated with pain in joints
Rickets: Disease of skeletal system, Vitamin D deficiency
Rose cold: Hay fever or nasal symptoms of an allergy
Rotanny fever: Child's disease
Rubella: German measles
Sanguineous crust: Scab
Scarlatina: Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever: A disease characterized by red rash
Scarlet rash: Roseola
Sciatica: Rheumatism in the hips
Scirrhus: Cancerous tumors
Scotomy: Dizziness, nausea and dimness of sight
Scrivener's palsy: Writer's cramp
Scrofula: Tuberculosis of neck lymph glands. Progresses slowly with abscesses and pistulas develop. Young person's disease
Scrumpox: Skin disease, impetigo
Scurvy: Lack of vitamin C. Symptoms of weakness, spongy gums and hemorrhages under skin
Septicemia: Blood poisoning
Shakes: Delirium tremens
Shaking: Chills, ague
Shingles: Viral disease with skin blisters
Ship fever: Typhus
Siriasis: Inflammation of the brain due to sun exposure
Sloes: Milk sickness
Small pox: Contagious disease with fever and blisters
Softening of brain: Result of stroke or hemorrhage in the brain, with an end result of the tissue softening in that area
Sore throat distemper: Diphtheria or quinsy
Spanish influenza: Epidemic influenza
Spasms: Sudden involuntary contraction of muscle or group of muscles,like a convulsion
Spina bifida: Deformity of spine
Spotted fever: Typhus or Meningitis
Sprue: Tropical disease characterized by intestinal disorders and sore throat
St. Anthony's fire: Also erysipelas, but named so because of affected skin areas are bright red in appearance
St. Vitas dance: Ceaseless occurrence of rapid complex jerking movements performed involuntary
Stomatitis: Inflammation of the mouth
Stranger's fever: Yellow fever
Sudor anglicus: Sweating sickness
Summer complaint: Diarrhea, usually in infants caused by spoiled milk
Sunstroke: Uncontrolled elevation of body temperature due to environment heat. Lack of sodium in the body is a predisposing cause
Swamp sickness: Could be malaria, typhoid or encephalitis
Sweating sickness: Infectious and fatal disease common to UK in 15th century
Tetanus: Infectious fever characterized by high fever, headache and dizziness
Thrombosis: Blood clot inside blood vessel
Thrush: Childhood disease characterized by spots on mouth, lips and throat
Tick fever: Rocky mountain spotted fever
Toxemia of pregnancy: Eclampsia
Trench mouth: Painful ulcers found along gum line, Caused by poor nutrition and poor hygiene
Tussis convulsiva: Whooping cough
Typhus: Infectious fever characterized high fever, headache, and dizziness
Viper's dance: St. Vitus Dance
Water on brain: Enlarged head, hydrocephalic
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