Get the CD, Book or Download the Glossary

English Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms

Iatrogenic Artifact An iatrogenic artifact is a disease made up by doctors, often a diagnostic trend or fad that has become or is expected to become obsolete or discredited. Examples of diseases considered or accused of being iatrogenic artifacts include nymphomania, hystero-epilepsy, repressed memory, autogynephilia, and multiple personality disorder. In many cases, it has been shown that "experts" who believe in the disease are able to observe or even induce symptoms matching the disease's description in suggestible patients. In the case of hystero-epilepsy, it was shown that moving those allegedly afflicted with the disease into different settings made their symptoms disappear. [Wikipedia]


Thin bad matter. [Buchan1798]

A watery, acrid discharge from a wound or ulcer; Pus. [Heritage]


Relating to or caused by a stroke or seizure. [CancerWEB]


A disease, the principal symptoms of which is yellowness of the skin and eyes, with white feces and high-colored urine. It admits of various causes; in fact, any thing which can directly or indirectly obstruct the course of the bile, so that it is taken into the mass of blood and produces the yellowness of surface; the bile being separated by the kidneys, causes yellowness of urine, and its being prevented from reaching the intestine occasions the pale colored feces. [Dunglison1855].

The presence of jaundice seen in the sclera of the eye. Jaundice. [CancerWEB].

Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes caused by an accumulation of bile pigment (bilirubin) in the blood; can be a symptom of gallstones or liver infection or anemia. Synonym: jaundice. [Wordnet].

Example from a 1922 Death Certificate from Massachusetts:

Icterus Albus

The white jaundice. Chlorosis is sometimes so called. [Hooper1829]

Icterus Gravis

Jaundice associated with high fever and delirium; seen in severe hepatitis and other diseases of the liver with severe functional failure. [CancerWEB]

Icterus Gravis

Jaundice associated with high fever and delirium; seen in severe hepatitis and other diseases of the liver with severe functional failure. [CancerWEB]

Example from a 1904 Funeral Home Record in California:

Icterus Infantum

Is a common affection, and frequently dependent upon obstruction of the choledoch duct by the meconium. [Dunglison1868]

Icterus Neonatorum

Icterus which can be accentuated by many factors including excessive haemolysis, sepsis, neonatal hepatitis or congenital atresia of the biliary system. [CancerWeb].

Yellowish appearance in newborn infants; usually subsides spontaneously. Synonym: jaundice of the newborn. [Wordnet].

Example from a 1915 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Icterus Niger

Black jaundice; so called when the color is very dark. [Hoblyn1855]

Icterus Saturninus

The earthy-yellow hue in saturine cachexy; Lead Jaundice. [Dunglison1868]

Icterus Viridis

Icterus when the skin is of a green or olive hue; Green Jaundice. [Dunglison1868]


A sudden attack, blow, stroke, or seizure. [Dorland]

Ictus Solis

Coup de soliel. Sunstroke; an effect produced by the rays of the sun upon the body, as erysipelas, or inflammation of the brain or its membranes. [Hoblyn1855]


A person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years and generally being unable to learn connected speech or guard against common dangers. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive. [Heritage]

Ignis Infernalis

("Hell's Fire"), the same as Erysipelas. [Medicinenet]

Ignis Sacer

("Sacred Fire"), the same as Erysipelas. [Thomas1875].

Herpes zoster; shingles. [Cleaveland1886].

Ignis Sancti Antonii

("Saint Anthony's Fire"), a name for Erysipelas. [Thomas1875]

Ignis Volaticus ("Flying Fire"), a term for erysipelas. [Thomas1875]
Ileocolitis Enteritis involving both the ileum and the colon. [Appleton1904].

Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the ileum and the colon. [American Heritage].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:


Costiveness, with twisting about the umbilical region. It is also called the Iliac Passion; Miserere, an invocation for pity, etc. [Hoblyn1855]

A disease characterized by deep-seated pain in the abdomen, stereoaceous vomiting, and obstinate constipation. It is occasioned by hernia, or other obstruction to the passage of feces through part of the intestinal canal. The term Ileus has been applied to various affections - to simple nervous colic, intussesception, and to strangulation of the small intestine, etc. It is very dangerous. [Dunglison1874]

Iliac passion. [Thomas1875].

Example from an 1867 Death Certificate from Scotland:

Iliac Passion A violent vomiting, in which the fæcal portion of the food is voided by the mouth. It is produced by many morbid conditions of the bowels, by inflammatory affections of the abdominal viscera, and by herniæ. [Hooper1829]

A disease characterized by severe griping pain, vomiting of fecal matter, and costiveness, with retraction and spasm of the abdominal muscles. [Thomas1875]



Ill Thing

The King's evil or St. Anthony's fire; also applied to any spontaneous sore. [Elworthy1875]


A person of moderate to severe mental retardation having a mental age of from three to seven years and generally being capable of some degree of communication and performance of simple tasks under supervision. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive. [Heritage]

Imperforate Rectum

An imperforate anus or anal atresia is a birth defect in which the rectum is malformed. Its cause is unknown. [Wikipedia].

Imperforate Anus is an abnormality of the anus and rectum that is present at birth. The infant is born without a normal rectal opening. Another name for imperforate anus is "anorectal anomaly." [University of Michigan].

Example from a 1925 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:


A skin disease marked by small, irregularly circumscribed pustules, chiefly on the extremities, slightly elevated, and terminating in a laminated scab, unaccompanied by fever, and not contagious; humid or running tetter. [Thomas1875]

A very contagious infection of the skin; common in children; localized redness develops into small blisters that gradually crust and erode. [Wordnet]

Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health


A collection of purulent matter. [Buchan1798]

A collection of pus or purulent matter in any part of an animal body; an abscess. [Webster]

Example from a 1734 London, England Death Record:


Exhaustion for want of nourishment. To die from inanition is to die from Exhaustion. [Dunglison1868].

The condition of being inane; emptiness; want of fullness, as in the vessels of the body; hence, specifically, exhaustion from want of food, either from partial or complete starvation, or from a disorder of the digestive apparatus, producing the same result. [Webster1913]

Example from an 1898 Cemetery record from Maine:


Lack of proper digestive action; a failure of the normal changes which food should undergo in the alimentary canal; dyspepsia; incomplete or difficult digestion. [Dorland].

Example from an 1890 death record from Michigan:


The hardening of a normally soft tissue or organ, especially the skin, because of inflammation, infiltration of a neoplasm, or an accumulation of blood. [Dorland].

Example from an 1865 Death Certificate from Scotland:


Child murder. [Dunglison 1874].

Example from an 1871 death record from Michigan:


Child murder. [Dunglison 1874].


A state of arrested development in an adult, characterized by retention of infantile mentality, accompanied by stunted growth and sexual immaturity, and often by dwarfism. [Heritage]


Invasion of the body by pathogenic microorganisms causing inflammation. [Wordnet].

The affection or contamination of a person, organ, or wound with invading, multiplying, disease-producing germs - such as bacteria, rickettsiae, viruses, molds, yeasts, and protozoa. In the early part of the last century, infections were thought to be the propagation of disease by effluvia from patients crowded together. "Miasms" were believed to be substances which could not be seen in any form - emanations not apparent to the senses. Such miasms were understood to act by infection. [NGSQ1988].

Infection of the Brain


Infectious Disease

Caused by or capable of being communicated by infection. [Dorland]


The state of being weak in health or body (especially from old age) [Wordnet]


A surcharge of blood, and an increased action of the vessels, in any particular part of the body. [Buchan1798]

A disease characterized by heat , pain, redness, attended with more or less of tumefaction and fever. [Hooper1829]

A morbid condition of any part of the body, consisting in congestion of the blood vessels, with obstruction of the blood current, and growth of morbid tissue. It is manifested outwardly by redness and swelling, attended with heat and pain. [Webster].

Redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, heat, and disturbed function of an area of the body, especially as a reaction of tissue to injurious agents. This mechanism serves as a localized and protective response to injury. The word ending -itis denotes inflammation on the part indicated by the word stem to which it is attached - that is, appendicitis, pleuritis, etc. Microscopically, it involves a complex series of events, including enlargement of the sizes of blood vessels; discharge of fluids, including plasma proteins; and migration of leukocytes (white blood cells) into the inflammatory focus. In the last century, cause of death often was listed as inflammation of a body organ - such as, brain or lung - but this was purely a descriptive term and is not helpful in identifying the actual underlying disease. [NGSQ1988].

"inflammation" was first used in popular English literature: sometime before 1598. [Webster]

Example from a 1789 London, England Death Record:

Example from an 1850 Mortality Schedule from Chicago:

Abdominal Inflammation


Inflammation of the Belly


Inflammation of the Bladder


Example from an 1885 Death Record from Michigan:

Inflammation of the Bones


Inflammation of the Bowels

Appendicitis, as a distinct disease, was unrecognized; such cases were diagnosed as ‘inflammation of the bowels,’ and nearly all died. [Hooper1822]

Example from an 1858 Death Certificate from West Virginia:

Example from an 1892 Death Certificate from Australia:

Inflammation of the Brain


Example from an 1870 Mortality Schedule from Kentucky:

Inflammation of the Colon


Inflammation of the Eyes


Inflammation of the Head


Inflammation of the Intestines


Inflammation of the Kidney


Example from an 1897 Death Record from Michigan:

Inflammation of the Liver


Example from an 1890 Death Record from Michigan:

Inflammation of the Lungs


Example from an 1881 Death Record from Michigan

Inflammation of the Pleura


Inflammation of the Spine


Example from an 1889 Death Record from Michigan

Inflammation of the Spleen


Example from an 1854 Death Certificate from West Virginia:

Inflammation of the Stomach


Example from an 1853 death certificate from West Virginia:

Inflammation of the Testicles


Inflammation of the Throat


Inflammation of the Uterus


Inflammation of the Womb


Example from an 1882 Death Record from Michigan


Characterized or caused by inflammation. [Heritage]

Inflammatory Fever

A variety of fever due to inflammation. [Webster]


(The Italian word for influence.) The disease is so named because it was supposed to be produced by a peculiar influence of the stars. [Hooper1829].
Epidemic febrile catarrh. The French call it la grippe, under which name Sauvages first described the epidemic catarrhal fever of 1743. It was formerly called coceoluche, "because the sick wore a cap close over their heads." [Hoblyn1855]
A severe form of catarrh occurring epidemically, and generally affecting a number of persons in a community. [Dunglison1868].
An acute contagious viral infection characterized by inflammation of the respiratory tract and by fever, chills, muscular pain, and prostration. Also called grippe. [Heritage].
"influenza" was first used: 1743. [Webster].
Fact sheet from CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health


Example from an 1899 Death Record from England:

Spanish Influenza

Influenza that caused several waves of pandemic in 1918-1919, resulting in more than 20 million deaths worldwide; it was particularly severe in Spain (hence the name), but now is thought to have originated in the U.S. As a form of swine influenza. [CancerWEB].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:


Deficiency of nutrition. [Appleton1904].

Want of nutrition; failure of nourishment. --E. Darwin. [Webster1913]

"innutrition" origin: 1790-1800. [Random House].

Example from an 1882 Death Certificate from England:

Insane / Insanity

Persistent mental disorder or derangement. No longer in scientific use. [Dorland].

Example from an 1869 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1921 Death Certificate from Georgia:


Exposure to the sun. Insolation is occasionally used in the same sense as coup de soleil. [Dunglison 1876].

Sudden prostration due to exposure to the sun or excessive heat. Synonyms: sunstroke, thermic fever, siriasis. [Wordnet].


Chronic inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time. [Heritage]

Intermittent Fever

Malarial Fever. Symptoms recur every 48 hours. [CivilWarMed]

Internal Rising Abscess or cyst.

Intestinal Fever

Typhoid Fever


The abnormal reception or slipping of a part of a tube, by inversion and descent, within a contiguous part of it; specifically, the reception or slipping of the upper part of the small intestine into the lower; introsusception; invagination. [Webster].

Invagination; especially: the slipping of a length of intestine into an adjacent portion usually producing obstruction. [Merriam Webster].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:


The condition of being an invalid; a state of debility or infirmity; especially, a chronic condition of poor health. [Wiktionary].


In medicine, ischemia is a restriction in blood supply, generally due to factors in the blood vessels, with resultant damage or dysfunction of tissue. It may also be spelled ischaemia or ischæmia. [Wikipedia].

Ischuria /

Ischuria Renalis

Retention of Urine. [Hooper1822].

Retention of, or impossibility of discharging, the urine [Dunglison 1874].

Retention or suppression of urine. [American Heritage].

Stoppage or reduction in the flow of urine either from blockage of a passage with resulting retention in the bladder or from disease of the kidneys. [Merriam Webster].

Example from an 1877 death certificate:

Italian Disease

Syphilis. The French called it the Neapolitan or Italian disease.


A sensation in the skin occasioned (or resembling that occasioned) by the itch eruption; called also scabies, psora, etc. [CancerWEB].

Example from a 1750 Death Record from England:

Example from an 1890 death record from Michigan: