Old Medical Terms

A collection of old medical terms that were used on many documents, including death certificates.  Many entries have been submitted by LCGS members and definitions verified using:  A To Zak, A Compreshensive Dictionary for Genealogists & Historians, Third Edition, 1995, by Barbara Jean Evans and Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Edition 14 Illustrated, 1981, Edited by Clayton L. Thomas, M.D., M.P.H. To download a copy of these terms click here.
 
Ablepsy
Blindness
Addison's Disease Severe weakness, low blood pressure
Ague
Malarial Fever
American plague
Yellow Fever
Anasarca
Generalized massive edema. Also see Dropsy.
Aphonia
Laryngitis
Apoplexy
Paralysis due to stroke
Asthenia Decay of strength, feebleness
Atrophy
Wasting away or diminishing in size
Bad Blood
Syphilis
Bilious fever
Typhoid, malaria, hepatitis or elevated temperature and bile emesis
Biliousness
Jaundice associated with liver disease
Black fever
Acute infection with high temperature and dark red skin lesions and high rate
Black plague or death
Bubonic plague
Black pox
Black small pox
Black vomit
Vomiting old black blood due to ulcers or yellow fever
Blackwater fever
Dark urine associated with high temperature
Blood poisoning
Bacterial infection; septicemia
Bloody flux
Bloody stools
Bloody sweats
Sweating sickness
Boanthropy Rare form of insanity described in 19th century, in which a man imagined himself to be the  manifestation of an ox.
Bone shave
Sciatica
Brain fever
Meningitis
Breakbone
Dengue fever
Bright’s disease
Chronic inflammatory disease of kidneys
Bronze John
Yellow fever
Cachexy
Malnutrition
Caduceus
Subject to falling sickness or epilepsy
Camp fever
Typhus
Canine madness
Rabies
Canker
Ulceration of mouth or lips or herpes simplex
Catarrh Associated with the common cold. An inflammation of the mucous membranes; runny nose; sinusitis
Cerebritis Lead poisoning
Chin cough
Whooping cough
Chlorosis Iron deficiency anemia
Cholera
Acute severe contagious diarrhea with intestinal lining sloughing
Cholera Infantum Non contagious diarrhea of children, prevalent during hot weather; also known as summer complaint. Often caused by poorly kept meat and dairy foods.
Cholera Morbus Nausea, abdominal cramps; often appendicitis
Congestive chills
Malaria
Consumption
Wasting away of body, usually from Tuberculosis
Convulsions Involuntary violent muscel contrations, probably epilepsy
Coryza
A cold
Costiveness
Constipation
Cramp colic
Appendicitis
Crop sickness
Overextended stomach
Croup Obstruction of trachea or larynx leading to a bark-like cough
Cystitis Inflammation of the bladder
Debility Decay of strength of the body
Decrepitude
Feebleness due to old age
Delirum Tremens Hallucination due to alcoholism, also known as the "DT's"
Dentition Cutting of teeth
Deplumation
Tumor of the eyelids which causes hair loss
Diary fever
A fever that lasts one day
Diphtheria
Contagious disease of the throat
Dropsy Abnormally large amounts of fluid in tissue or body cavities
Dropsy of Brain Encephalitis
Dry Bellyache
Lead poisoning
Dysentery Inflammation of the intestines with abdominal pain
Dyspepsia Indigestion and heatburn, often symptoms of a heart attack
Edema of Lungs Congestive heart failure
Eel thing
Erysipelas
Elephantiasis
A form of leprosy
Enterocolitis Inflammation of the intestines
Erysipelas Infectious bacterial discease, causing brght red rash or inflammation of the skin
Falling sickness
Epilepsy
Fatty liver
Cirrhosis of liver
Fits Sudden seizures of muscles
Fotadl Foot disease or gout.
French pox
Syphilis
Great pox
Syphilis
Green fever
Anemia
Grocer’s itch
Skin disease caused by mites in sugar or flour
Grippe or Grip Influenza
Heart sickness
Condition caused by loss of salt from body
Hip gout
Osteomylitis
Horrors
Delirium tremens
Hydrothorax
Dropsy in chest
Hypertropy of Heart Enlarged heart
Inanition Starvation
Infantile paralysis
Polio
Jail fever
Typhus
King’s evil
Tuberculosis of neck and lymph glands
Kruchhusten
Whooping cough
Lagrippe
Influenza
Long sickness
Tuberculosis
Lues disease
Syphilis
Lues venera
Venereal disease
Lung fever
Pneumonia
Lung sickness
Tuberculosis
Malignant sore throat
Diphtheria
Mania
Insanity
Marasmus
Progressive wasting away of body
Membranous croup
Diphtheria
Miasma
Poisonous vapors thoughts to infect the air
Milk fever
Disease from drinking contaminated milk
Milk sickness
Disease from milk of cattle which had eaten poisonous weeds
Mormal
Gangrene
Morphew
Scurvy blisters on the body
Mortification
Gangrene of necrotic tissue
Myelitis
Inflammation of the spine
Myocarditis
Inflammation of the heart muscles
Necrosis
Mortification of bones or tissue
Nephosis
Kidney degeneration
Nephritis
Inflammation of the kidneys
Nervous prostration
Extreme exhaustion from inability to control physical and mental activities
Neuralgia
described as discomfort, such as "headache" was neuralgia in the head
Nostalgia
Homesickness
Palsy
Paralysis or uncontrolled movement of controlled muscle - often used as a cause of death
Paristhmitis Acute inflammation of the tonsils
Paroxysm
Convulsion
Pemphigus
Skin disease of watery blisters
Pericarditis
Inflammation of the heart
Peritonotis Inflammation of the abdonimal area
Peripneumonia
Inflammation of the lungs
Peritonitis
Inflammation of abdominal area
Petechial fever
Fever characterized by skin spotting
Phitiriasis
Lice infiltration
Phthisis
Chronic wasting away or a name for tuberculosis
Plague
An acute febrile highly infectious disease with a high fatality rate
Pleurisy
Any pain in the chest area with each breath
Podagra
Gout
Poliomyelitis
Polio
Potter's asthma
Fibroid phthisis
Puerpal exhaustion
Death due to child birth
Puerperal fever
Elevated temperature after giving birth to an infant
Puerperal exhaustion
Death due to child birth
Phthiriasis
Lice infection
Podagra
Gout
Pott’s disease
Tuberculosis of spine
Quinsy
Tonsillitis
Remitting fever
Malaria
Rickets
Disease of skeletal system
Rose cold
Hay fever
Scarlatina Scarlet fever
Scirrhus
Cancerous tumors
Scotomy
Dizziness, nausea and dimness of sight
Scrivener’s palsy
Writer’s cramp
Screws
Rheumatism
Scrofula See King's Evil
Scrumpox
Skin disease, impetigo
Ship fever
Typhus
Sloes
Milk sickness
Softening of Brain Caused by stroke or brain hemorrhage
Spotted fever
Either typhus or meningitis
Sprue
Tropical disease characterized by intestinal disorder and sore throat
St. Anthony’s fire
Affected skin areas are bright red
St. Vitas Dance
Ceaseless occurrence of rapid complex involuntary jerking movements
Stomatitis
Inflammation of the mouth
Stranger’s fever
Yellow fever
Swamp sickness
Could be malaria, typhoid or encephalitis
Sweating sickness
Infectious and fatal disease common to the United Kingdom in the 15th century
Summer complaint Diarrhea, usually caused by spoiled milk
Thrush
Childhood disease characterized by spots on mouth, lips and throat
Trench mouth
Painful ulcers found along gum line; caused by poor nutrition and hygiene
Variola
Smallpox
Viper’s Dance
St. Vitus Dance
White swelling
Tuberculosis of the bone
Winter fever
Pneumonia
Yellowjacket
Yellow fever
 
 
Updated: 2 September 2015
 
Have some other Old Medical Terms to add? Please send them to genhelp@lcgsfl.org.