Dictionary of Modern Medicine database
After decades of brutally hard and tedious work, www.newmedicalterms.com has begun releasing portions of the 21st Century’s first new medical lexicon, the Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD).
Rather than cover the same ground as that found in the Dorland’s, Mosby’s, Stedman’s, and Taber’s medical dictionaries, the DMMD has focused on areas of biomedical and clinical interest which, whilst increasingly important to the understanding and practice of medicine, one doesn’t find in these venerated works.
Over time, we will extend our reach to include material found in other medical dictionaries…but for the short term the DMMD will focus on key material not assembled elsewhere under the same roof.
We began releasing ever larger versions in 2017 (see table, bottom). We just went live with v.6, which has nearly 60,000 definitions in 8 categories:
Medical abbreviations & acronyms (22,000 entries)
As New Medical Terms’ compiler/curator, I would note that the Genes data set is a work in progress. Version 6 has core information (definitions) on 16,000 genes that I’ve come across in reading. Whilst that might seem like a large number, the human genome has over 25,000 genes (both DNA and RNA), pseudogenes, and non-coding stretches of nucleic acid, so I have my work cut out for me.
Please let me know which ones I’ve missed and they’ll be prioritized for future versions. Version 7 will be out in May (2019), and add a few more hereditary syndromes.
Hereditary syndromes (6,500)
Obsolete/retired terms (5,300)
This subdatabase is new to v.5. Too many lexical dinosaurs clutter up major medical dictionaries but serve no real purpose, given their disappearance from the working medical parlance. This group will expand, as we cull through past and present medical lexicons.
British medical practice (4,400)
Alternative health (3,500)
Sexology and Suicidology (each under 1,000 entries).
None of the above areas have been adequately covered by other medical dictionaries. We have tasked ourselves with filling those gaps. With the release of version 6, the DMMD nudges its way to become the 4th largest medical dictionary, and is now larger than the Mosby’s by a couple of thousand entries.
Parenthetically, we expect to pass the Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary’s 66,000 entries sometime in the late summer of 2019. These works are different, and thus the comparison is not completely apropos.
And, for penny-pinching med students, the DMMD is the largest medical lexicon offered free of charge.
We invite you to download v.6 of the DMMD, which is now out; experience the future of medical lexicography for yourself.
Version 6 can be downloaded directly to:
Your Mac NMTDMac 2.0v6 (1)
Your Windows PC NMTDWin 2.0v6 or
Your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) NMTDiOS 2.0v6.fmpur for which you’ll need to first download Filemaker Go https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/filemaker-go-17/id1274628191?mt=8.
For all three formats (Mac, Windows, iOS), the user name is user; the password is user (they are case sensitive).
Filemaker does not support Android devices. Once we procure sponsorship, the data will be accessible on all devices and users won’t need to download the database.
Take-home points about the DMMD:
Redundancy Before the DMMD, no medical dictionary had adequately solved the alias (synonym, other name for) problem.
When we look for a term in a medical dictionary, we spin the dial, hoping we’ve used the same name for the entry/definition as the lexicographer. As an example of this problem, pathologists prefer <gluten-sensitive enteropathy>, for what clinicians call <celiac disease>, but would spell <coeliac disease> if British. It’s very tempting to include alternative names and spellings when tallying the number of definitions on offer, but such inclusion falsely inflates the actual count. We feel that’s like the butcher putting his finger on the meat scale.
Unlike other medical lexicons, we do not include in our tally, those terms that are nothing more than aliases or synonyms (A&Ss). We have a separate field in the database for A&Ss. In contrast, in the Dorland’s, one sees three entries for the synonyms syndactylia, syndactylism, and syndactyly, which the Dorland’s counts as three separate definitions/entries. We address this by counting 1 definition and 2 aliases.
We feel that redundancy is only justified to prevent confusion.
An example of the very few times the DMMD has repeat entries for the same entity is PSA. We would not otherwise include PSA (prostate-specific antigen) as a separate entry, but PSA is so widely used in the working medical parlance that few realize that PSA is the incorrect abbreviation for KLK3, the gene that encodes prostate-specific antigen (which is correctly known as kallikrein-related peptidase 3). KLK3 is the symbol approved by the Human Genome Nomenclature Committee for PSA. We feel that in such cases, two entries cross-referencing each other are not merely warranted, but necessary.
As of today, 27 May, 2019, the DMMD has 194,383 entries (terms, definitions) in varying stages of completion. The DMMD has an additional 231,645 searchable A&Ss for a total of well over 400K terms. For those who like to crunch numbers, the DMMD has over 3 times more terms than one finds in the Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary (which holds itself as the largest medical lexicon on the market), if we were to count entries the same way as they do. The Dorland’s counts a fair few A&Ss as if they were proper entries; as said, they are not.
References The Dorland’s has a team of non-physician lexicographers and a handful of medical doctors and scientists. An appendix indicates the Dorland’s has perhaps 200, peer-reviewed, references. At last count, the DMMD had 59,768 references, most “hot linked” to curated databases–e.g., Genecards, OMIM, and UniProt, based on the recognition that in the 21st century, even secondary literature such as the lowly medical dictionary is beholden to prior work and the need to quote the information source.
And peers will no doubt question whether one person can single-handedly compile a medical dictionary.
www.newmedicalterms.com is the only website specifically dedicated to medical lexicography. It is the result of one physician’s belief, first articulated in 1984, that the medical dictionaries currently in print were–and continue to be–grossly inadequate and don’t address the needs of medical students, physicians, biomedical scientists and advanced health professionals.
(1) FRONT MATERIAL—Blog, Coming Soon, FAQs
(2) OPINION PIECES on medical lexicography (https://www.newmedicalterms.
(3) A CLASSIFICATION of medical terminology designed to facilitate interaction with IT systems (https://www.newmedicalterms.
(4) Links to eBOOKs (I’m no longer updating these works, because non-database lexicons are anachronisms. Some of the eBooks I’ve written over the years are still available, thanks to Kent, my website and database guy, who felt I shouldn’t kill them off quite yet, as somebody might want them… (https://www.newmedicalterms.
com/ebooks-published-by-the- author/). Amazon tells me that they’re still selling…
(5) BLOCKS of DEFINITIONS:
Downloadable section This is part of the DMMD, the raison d’être of which is to provide facile access to terminology that is an ever-increasing part of our daily practice as physicians, yet has been either largely ignored by other medical dictionaries or addressed so briefly that the information provided borders on useless. Version 5 of the DMMD can be downloaded directly to your Mac NMTD 2.0v5; for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad), you’ll need to first download Filemaker Go https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/filemaker-go-17/id1274628191?mt=8. The Windows formatted version is under development. Filemaker does not support Android devices.
Version 5 of the DMMD has over 55,000 terms/entries/definitions that are poorly covered, if at all in other medical dictionaries. We plan to provide users with a new and expanded version of the DMMD bimonthly. We believe that users will find the upside of having at their fingertips succinct definitions in a single source worth the downside of loading a fresh version of the DMMD every couple of months. Once we secure sponsorship, each new version will be ported to a server, allowing users to directly query the database in real time. Sponsorship will allow us to serve Android users, who cannot currently access the public releases, because FileMaker, the software we’re using to create content, doesn’t support Android. Version 6 will have about 60,000 terms.
Searchable section This section has 4,500 terms and provides a sampling of the full array of terminology required of a medical dictionary that serves the needs of physicians, medical students, and advanced healthcare professionals in the 21st century. All terminology directly or indirectly related to healthcare and medicine has been divided into seven headings–e.g., Classic medicine, Global medicine, Modern medicine, and so on (https://www.newmedicalterms.
com/alphabetized-page-list/) and multiple subsections, as indicated below.
(1) FRONT MATERIAL
BLOG Those who read peer-reviewed biomedical publications will come across countless terms every day which, whilst important, rarely find their way into medical dictionaries. Because of the sheer quantity of work required to create a broadly useful soup-to-nuts medical lexicon, parsimony will guide the number of terms I blog. I plan to publish the more interesting and/or important “newbies” on NMT’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ModernMedicalDictionary/) and will try to put them on the website as well (https://www.newmedicalterms.
com/blog-2/), so readers can find them in two places…we’ll see how much time I have for this…
COMING SOON This section tells users what to expect in the next version of the DMMD, including number of new definitions in which areas of interest and which new subdatabase(s) were added (https://www.newmedicalterms.
FAQs This section (https://www.newmedicalterms.
com/faq/) is intended to address questions users might have regarding the DMMD, the NMT and those of us involved in its creation and development. Feel free to email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions regarding content; if the question is broadly relevant, I would add it to the other FAQs.
(2) OPINION PIECES
MEDICAL DICTIONARIES IN THE 21st CENTURY There are four major medical dictionaries: Dorland’s, first published in 1890 as the American Illustrated Medical Dictionary; Stedman’s in 1911; Taber’s in 1940; and Mosby’s in 1982. Each has multiple flaws that limit their usefulness to a key demographic—physicians and advanced healthcare professionals. I have focused on the Dorland’s, as the largest and oldest of the group, in my critiques of the field of medical lexicography. The Dorland’s has a plethora of issues which I, based on 35 years of compiling and publishing these works, regard as errors or flaws. These flaws include:
Continued use of older names–e.g., Hallervorden-Spatz disease for neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation 1 (Hallervorden and Spatz were Nazi doctors who were posthumously stripped of the eponymic honorific).
Continued use of Latin nomenclature–especially for abbreviations of prescriptions–e.g., agit vas—the vial being shaken, and cochl amp—a heaping spoonful, when English is the lingua franca of biomedical communication.
Continued inclusion of therapeutics that were pulled from the market up to a decade earlier–e.g., cerivastatin (Baycol), efalizumab (Raptiva), isotretinoin (Accutane), rofecoxib (Vioxx), and valdecoxib (Bextra).
Anemic definitions–e.g., cholecystitis is defined as <inflammation of the gallbladder>, a definition which the average high school student with a rudimentary knowledge of Latin roots could cobble together.
For these and other failings, physicians typically use medical dictionaries to check spelling, if they use them at all, and go to Google or Wikipedia for definitions (https://www.newmedicalterms.
MEDICAL LEXICOGRAPHY in the 21st CENTURY Unlike proper fields in medicine and science…medical lexicography is meant to be invisible. If publications in fields as disparate as genomics, managed care, informatics, cardiology, robotic surgery used a common syntax and system of nomenclature, a publication in Specialty A would use the same name for disease entity A as Specialties B, C, or D. Whilst this usually occurs, until usually becomes invariably, literature searches and reviews will be incomplete. IT tools work best when rules are applied universally; otherwise, it’s GIGO—garbage in, garbage out.
A key goal of medical lexicography must be to reduce, or ideally, eliminate redundancy and to embrace naming conventions and rules of syntax, especially those rules that have been widely used in non-medical contexts, and provide those conventions and rules when such are absent. (https://www.newmedicalterms.
A NEW MAJOR MEDICAL DICTIONARY In 1984, I started with a blank piece of paper and told my wife, I’m going to write a new medical dictionary (I have since rued that day). In the intervening 35 years, what began as The Dictionary of Pathology Jargon, expected to have a few hundred entries/definitions and take perhaps 6 months, has grown into what appears to be the single largest dictionary format medical database on the planet. The original intent was to provide me with a tool to help study for the upcoming boards exam in pathology. The project outgrew the confines of a single specialty–pathology, and the limitations of a particular type of term–jargon, within months. The entries included have been guided by three simple rules:
(1) The term should be in current use;
(2) All terms directly or obliquely related to medicine should be included;
The project, The Dictionary of Modern Medicine, was first published by the Parthenon Group in 1992 with 12,000 entries. It was last published in 2006 in paper by McGraw-Hill as The Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine with 23,000 entries.
Two years before Amazon launched the Kindle, and five years before Apple launched the iPad, I concluded that paper dictionaries had become anachronisms, given that books are unwieldy once they grow beyond 2,000 pages and are unreadable when the typeface shrinks below 8 pts. I spent the next two years cutting and pasting the 35,000 pages of text I’d accumulated into Filemaker, a widely used database program. Information queries that once took 10 minutes or more when the Dictionary of Modern Medicine was in a text format, now take milliseconds as the Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD). Text-based medical dictionaries are, as Hollywood might say, Dead Men Walking.(https://www.newmedicalterms.
(3) CLASSIFICATION of MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY A few years ago, shortly after setting up the website, www.newmedicalterms.com, I was fortunate enough to enlist the help of a webmaster and database guru, Kent Hummel. Among his many suggestions was to introduce a hierarchical tier between the many groups (±100) of terms–e.g., cardiology, immunology, human rights, obsolete terms, medical slang and jargon, metabolic disorders, and so on, to improve data management. Whilst no artificial classification solves every problem, we have found it useful, as might our readers (https://www.newmedicalterms.
As examples, under Classic Medicine, the user will find terminology from anatomy, cardiology, imaging, pathology and so on. Under Modern Medicine, one notes the vocabulary of AIDS, evidence-based medicine, informatics, sports medicine, transplantation medicine, and many others. Under Vintage Medicine, readers will find terminology that should be retired; most of the terms in this section have been googled to verify their status as retirees; many will have comments on usage and provide current synonyms
(4) eBOOKS for SALE When I first began porting material from the text files into the database, I had a brief, one-sided romance with eBooks. On the plus side, eBooks weigh nothing beyond the weight of the device; the only limit is the device’s memory. One can modify the typeface, text size, background lighting and even simulate the look and sound of pages turning. For many types of publications–e.g., novels, biographies, magazines, journals, travel guides, and cookbooks, eBooks are godsends; one can carry one’s entire personal library in a device the size of a small stack of manila envelopes. The eBook format fails dismally for rapid and focused information queries, which is how most of us look for information in a lexicon. I have not updated any of the four eBooks that are still available on the various eBook portals: The Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine; The Illustrated Doctors’ Dictionary; The Dictionary of Alternative & Complementary Medicine; and The Dictionary of British Medicine. I’d planned on pulling them from the eBook stores in 2016, but Kent encouraged me to keep them alive for the short term. (https://www.newmedicalterms.
The table provides a breakdown of the type and quantity of definitions available in the current (v.6) downloadable version of the DMMD. The current plan is to finish all (!) of the DNA genes, RNA genes, pseudogenes, antisense segments, and genetic loci, a process that should be finished later in 2019. After that, I’ll roll up the sleeves and attack syndromes and diseases.
Down the road, you’ll see glossaries of Medspeak (forget Latin and Greek, Medspeak is the lingua franca of modern medicine), forensic medicine, therapeutic monoclonals, recently approved drugs and devices, sports medicine, managed care, and transplantation medicine, to name a few. It’s hard to project, 12 months out, where our numbers will be by Christmas 2019, but proper definitions should be north of 75,000 (of the pool of 195+K terms in the DMMD) and searchables (aliases) should add another 225,000 (for a total of 300,000…not bad for a one-man show, I’d like to think). We believe that, over time, the DMMD will become your “go to” source for succinct biomedical definitions, and a jump-off point for finding further information, given the plethora of URL links.
Feel free to email me with questions on, suggestions and corrections.
JC Segen, MD, FCAP
Complete list of entries https://www.newmedicalterms.com/alphabetized-page-list/
They’re for your browsing pleasure; feel free to link, like and share.