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English Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms

Acute  Nasal Catarrh

Acute Rhinitis.

Chronic Nasal Catarrh

Chronic Rhinitis.

Navel Ill

A serious septicemia of newborn animals caused by pus-producing bacteria entering the body through the umbilical cord or opening and typically marked by joint inflammation or arthritis accompanied by generalized pyemia, rapid debilitation, and commonly death—called also joint evil, joint ill, pyosepticemia. [Merriam Webster].

Neapolitan Disease

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


Death of a bone or part of a bone; analogous to mortification of the soft parts. [Thomas1875].

Death of cells or tissues through injury or disease, especially in a localized area of the body. [Heritage].

Moist Necrosis

Necrosis in which the dead tissue is wet and soft. [Dorland].

Negro Consumption Some physicians suppose it to be a variety of phthisis pulmonalis. The popular opinion is, that negro consumption is caused by dirt-eating. [DeBow's Commercial Review of the South and West 1851].

Before the Civil War, Negro Consumption was believed to be caused by dirt eating (Chthonophagia). In time, it was determined to be a variety of Phthisis Pulmonalis but still considered a separate disease from the one that afflicted the Anglo-Saxons. Eventually, science and reason prevailed and no distinction was made between African and Caucasian disease. Also called: African Consumption, Negro Cachexia, African Cachexia, Struma Africana. [Schmidt 2009].

African Cachexia. [Appleton1904].


The "African sleep disease." An endemic disease of negroes on the West Coast of Africa characterized by morbid somnolence, headache, and emaciation. It is usually fatal. [Tuke1892].


An abnormal new mass of tissue that serves no purpose. [Wordnet].




Any of various acute or chronic inflammations of the kidneys, such as Bright's disease. [Heritage].

Chronic Nephritis

Inflammations of the kidneys. [Heritage].

Example from an 1889 New York State Death Certificate:


Renal disease marked by bilateral inflammatory changes in glomeruli that are not the result of kidney infection. Also called glomerular nephritis. [American Heritage].

Interstitial Nephritis

Nephritis in which the interstitial connective tissue is chiefly affected. [American Heritage].

Example from a 1915 Death Certificate from Massachusetts:

Parenchymatous Nephritis

Nephritis affecting the parenchyma of the kidney. [Mosby's Medical Dictionary].

Parenchyma - The tissue characteristic of an organ, as distinguished from associated connective or supporting tissues. [American Heritage]

Example from a 1915 Death Certificate from Massachusetts:

Suppurative Nephritis

Focal glomerulonephritis with abscess formation in the kidney. [American Heritage].

Example from an 1897 Death Record from Michigan


A calculus formed in the kidney; Kidney Stone. [Heritage]


The presence of kidney stones (calculi) in the kidney. [Wordnet]

Nerve Pang


Nervous Debility Neurasthenia. [Gould1916].

Example from an 1877 death certificate from West Virginia:

Nervous Exhaustion

Nervous Prostration

Nervous Fever

Typhoid Fever, Febricula, Little Fever. [Symptom, Nature, etc. of the Febricula or Little Fever, Manningham, 1746].

A variety of typhus mitior of Cullen, but many considered as a distinct disease. It mostly begins with the loss of appetite, increased heat and vertigo; to which succeed nausea, vomiting, great languor, and pain in the head, which is variously described, by some like cold water pouring over the top, by others a sense of weight. The pulse, before little increased, now becomes quick, febrile, and tremulous; the tongue is covered with a white crust, and there is great anxiety about the precordia. Towards the seventh or eighth day, the vertigo is increased, and tinnitus aurium, cophosis, delirium, and a dry and tremulous tongue, take place. The disease mostly terminates about the fourteenth or twentieth day. [Hooper1843].

Typhus Mitior. [Dunglison1868].

Any fever characterized by decided derangement of the nervous system, especially typhus fever and typhoid fever. [Appleton1904].

Example from an 1828 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Nervous Pain


Nervous Prostration

An emotional disorder that leaves you exhausted and unable to work. [Wordnet].

Example from a 1917 Death Certificate from Georgia:


Excessive excitability and irritability, with mental and physical unrest. [CancerWEB]


Elevations of the cuticle, or wheals resembling the sting of the nettle. See Urticaria. [Hoblyn1855]




A disease, the chief symptom of which is a very acute pain, exacerbating or intermitting, which follows the course of a nervous branch, extends to its ramifications, and seems therefore to be seated in the nerve. It seems to be independent of any structural lesion. --Dunglison. [Webster1913].

Example from an 1859 death certificate from West Virginia:

Neuralgia Femoropoplites

This is characterized by pain following the great sciatic nerve from the ischiatic notch to the ham, along the peroneal surface of the leg to the sole of the foot. It is often considered to be a form of rheumatism. [Dunglison1874].


A psychological disorder characterized by chronic fatigue and weakness, loss of memory, and generalized aches and pains, formerly thought to result from exhaustion of the nervous system. No longer in scientific use. [Heritage].

Example from an 1897 Death Record from Michigan


Inflammation of a nerve or group of nerves, characterized by pain, loss of reflexes, and atrophy of the affected muscles. [Heritage].


Inflammation of a nerve or group of nerves, characterized by pain, loss of reflexes, and atrophy of the affected muscles. [Heritage].

Example from an 1897 Death Record from Michigan


Affection of the nervous system or of a nerve. [Webster1913].


A mental or personality disturbance not attributable to any known neurological or organic dysfunction (syn: neuroticism, psychoneurosis) [Wordnet].

Nevoid Elephantiasis


New World Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Night-soil Fever

Typhoid Fever, Enteric Fever. [A Treatise on the Continued Fevers, Wilson, 1881].

Noli Me Tangere

(touch me not). A name given by various writers to lupus. The disease is termed from its impatience of handling, and its being aggravated by most kinds of treatment. [Hoblyn1855].

Example from an 1897 Death Record from Michigan


Water canker; a form of sphacelus occurring generally in children. [Hoblyn1855].

A severe, often gangrenous inflammation of the mouth or genitals, occurring usually after an infectious disease and found most often in children in poor hygienic or malnourished condition; Gangrenous Stomatitis. [Heritage].

A spreading invasive gangrene chiefly of the lining of the cheek and lips that is usually fatal and occurs most often in persons severely debilitated by disease or profound nutritional deficiency —see Cancrum Oris. [Merriam].

Gangrenous processes of the mouth or genitalia. In the mouth (cancrum oris, gangrenous stomatitis), it begins as a small gingival ulcer and results in gangrenous necrosis of surrounding facial tissues. The condition on the genitalia is called erosive balanitis in males and erosive vulvitis in females. [Dorland].

Nonvenereal Syphilis

Syphilis caused by organisms closely related to Treponema pallidum; spread by personal, but not necessarily venereal, contact; usually acquired in childhood, most common in areas of poverty and overcrowding; rare in the United States; includes yaws, pinta and bejel. [CancerWEB].



Norwegian Leprosy Radesyge. [Hoblyn1855].




Homesickness; esp., a severe and sometimes fatal form of melancholia, due to homesickness. [Webster].