Classic Medicine

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Classic Medicine2017-11-17T12:45:12+00:00

Classic Medicine

In the Classic Medicine section, the reader will find terminology that one expects to find in any major medical dictionary, of which there are four currently in print: Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary (first published in 1890), Mosby’s Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing & Health Professions (1982), Stedman’s Medical Dictionary (1911), and Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (1940). The terminology included in these works has stood the test of time, as evidenced by multiple editions spanning, in the case of the Dorland’s and Stedman’s, more than a century. 

The terminology defined in traditional medical lexicons is meant to encompass that which those studying medicine would be expected to master from the beginning of their careers as pre-medical, medical, nursing and allied health professional students to long after they’ve graduated. Subjects which are part of their education in basic science* include anatomy, chemistry, embryology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, and others. This is followed by two clinical years in which medical students straddle the lecture hall and the wards, where they are exposed to anesthesiology, cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology, nephrology, surgery, and other specialties. Based on the exposure and experience gained during their four or more years of medical school, the newly crowned physicians will choose the specialty that best suits their mettle and passion.

*The first two years of medical school. 

The Modern Medical Dictionary database is the first new medical dictionary to have been compiled in over 30 years. When I began this project in 1984, it made little sense to incorporate much of the vocabulary that one finds in the four above mentioned players in a seemingly crowded market. The clue to the material  I chose to include in my project lay in the adjective, Modern.  

I started with a blank page and began typing. 

The initial vision was hardly ambitious. I’d planned on a collection of jargon commonly used in pathology*. I thought it would take 6 months, have 150-ish pages of manuscript and a few illustrations. But the project snow-balled and ultimately encompassed jargon from every field of medicine–e.g., CYA (cover your ass–defensive medicine), FLK (funny-looking kid–neonatology), Sonic Hedgehog (cell biology), with particular focus on modern terminology, which served to distinguish it from other medical dictionaries. It was first published by the Parthenon Group (UK) in 1992, missing my target for manuscript completion by six years.

*I was at the time a resident/registrar in pathology in New York

Because classic medical vocabulary has been well-covered by other works, I’ve only included a smattering of terms from classic medicine on this website. Over time, I’ve added features that seemed “mission critical”. I believe that a one-man show of this magnitude mandates the inclusion of references, without which users could reasonable question the value and validity of the definitions. 

As the decades have passed, the criteria for inclusion have expanded and the Dictionary of Modern Medicine database (DMMD) has begun to incorporate the stuff of traditional medical dictionaries. It is too early to say when the DMMD will launch as a competitor to the above time-tested works. 

25 Interesting Terms in Classic Medicine

French flag model

Collyer's mansion


central serous retinopathy

NSAID enteropathy

Command hallucination

Facebook addiction disorder

tricyclic antidepressant suicide

thousand yard stare

chemical pregnancy

molar tooth sign

Scotty dog sign

Note to users. Feel free to surf around, there are hundreds of equally interesting terms in the Classic medicine section.

Complete list of entries

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