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English Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms


A species of consumption. [Buchan1798]

A wasting of the body, characterized by emaciation and weakness, attended with hectic fever, but without any cough or spitting, which last symptoms distinguish it from phthisis. [Hooper1829].

Emaciation of the whole body, with general languor, hectic fever, and, for the most part, depressed spirits. [Dunglison1874].

A wasting away, especially atrophy of the muscles. [Appleton1904]

Example from an 1864 Church Record from Slovakia:

Tabes Dorsalis

A wasting of the body, attended at first with pain in the back or loins, and afterward also in the neck and head, caused by a too early or a too frequent use of venery. [Hooper1829].

.A wasting of the body, attended at first with a pain in the back or loins, and afterwards in the neck or head, sometimes caused, it has been conceived, by too early or too frequent addiction to venery. The term has also been employed synonymously with locomotor ataxy. [Dunglison1874].

A late form of syphilis resulting in a hardening of the dorsal columns of the spinal cord and marked by shooting pains, emaciation, loss of muscular coordination, and disturbances of sensation and digestion. Also called locomotor ataxia. [Heritage].

(Entry from an 1843 Church Record in Münster, Switzerland)

Tabes Mesenterica

A wasting disease of childhood characterized by chronic inflammation of the lymphatic glands of the mesentery, attended with caseous degeneration. [Webster].

Example from an 1826 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Example from an 1855 Death Record from Australia:

Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat (over 100 beats per minute). [Wordnet]


Any of various ribbon like, often very long flatworms of the class Cestoda that lack an alimentary canal and are parasitic in the intestines of vertebrates, including humans. [Dorland]


An epidemic/contagious disease seen by Gmelin in Siberia, in the town of Tara, which appears to have resembled somewhat the Button Scurvy of Ireland. [Dunglison1874]


St. Vitus' Dance. [Dunglison1874]

A disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to dance, especially prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th century and popularly attributed to the bite of a tarantula. [Heritage]

Tarry Stool

Stools with semi-digested blood.


A painfully urgent but ineffectual attempt to urinate or defecate. [Heritage]

Painful spasm of the anal sphincter along with an urgent desire to defecate without the significant production of feces; associated with irritable bowel syndrome. [Wordnet]

Tertian /Fever

An intermittent , whose paroxysms recur every third day, or every 48 hours. The mildest and most pernicious, intermittents belong to this head. As a general rule, it is the most manageable form of ague. [Dunglison1868]


An obsolete synonym for tetany. [CancerWEB]


An acute infectious disease, recognized as caused by the bacillus tetanus, and characterized by painful spasmodic contraction of the voluntary muscles, most frequently those of the jaw, face, and neck; less frequently those of the trunk, the extensors of the spine and limbs. It has occurred as an epidemic during times of war. In the new-born it is known as Trismus Neonatorum. [Thomas1907].

 A painful and usually fatal disease, resulting generally from a wound, and having as its principal symptom persistent spasm of the voluntary muscles. When the muscles of the lower jaw are affected, it is called {locked-jaw}, or {lickjaw}, and it takes various names from the various incarnations of the body resulting from the spasm. [Webster1913].

"tetanus" was first used: 1392. [Webster]

Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health
Information Card from the CDC

Example from an 1858 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Tetanus Neonatorum

Tetanus occurring in newborn infants, usually due to infection of umbilical area with Clostridium tetani, often a result of ritualistic practices; has high fatality rate (about 60%). [CancerWEB].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Traumatic Tetanus



An abnormal condition characterized by periodic painful muscular spasms and tremors, caused by faulty calcium metabolism and associated with diminished function of the parathyroid glands. [Heritage]


Any of various skin diseases, such as eczema, psoriasis, or herpes, characterized by eruptions and itching. [Heritage]

Honeycomb Tetter Favus
Humid Tetter Impetigo
Moist Tetter Impetigo
Running Tetter Impetigo
Scaly Tetter Psoriasis

Thermic Fever

Sunstroke. [Random House]

Example from a 1911 Death Certificate from Ohio:


A rarely used term for sunstroke.  [CancerWEB]

Third Disease

Rubella. Third of six classic exanthems, or rash-associated diseases, of childhood.

Three Day Fever

Sandfly Fever


The obstruction of a blood vessel by a clot formed at the site of obstruction; -- distinguished from embolism, which is produced by a clot or foreign body brought from a distance. [Webster].

"Thrombosis" - Example from a 1922 Death Certificate from Georgia:

"Cerebral Thrombosis" - Example from a 1961 Death Certificate from Canada:

"Coronary Thrombosis" - Example from a 1930 Death Certificate from Ohio:


Children are very subject to it. It appears in small, white ulcers upon the tongue, gums, and around the mouth and palate, resembling small particles of curdled milk. When the disease is mild, it is confined to these parts; but when it is violent and of long standing, it is apt to extend through the whole course of the alimentary canal, from the mouth down to the anus; and so to excite severe purging, flatulence, and other disagreeable symptoms. The disease when recent and confined to the mouth, may in general be easily removed; but when of long standing, and extending down to the stomach and intestines, it very frequently proves fatal. [Hooper1829].

A popular term for aphthae on the tongue, lining membrane of the mouth, fauces, etc., of infants. [Thomas1875]

A contagious disease caused by a fungus, Candida albicans, that occurs most often in infants and children, characterized by small whitish eruptions on the mouth, throat, and tongue, and usually accompanied by fever, colic, and diarrhea; Candidiasis. [Heritage].

Fact sheet from CDC

Example from an 1854 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1917 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Milk Thrush

A disease in which appear roundish, pearl coloured vesicles, confined to the lips, mouth, and intestinal canal, and generally terminating in curd like sloughs. [Hoblyn1900].


Oral Thrush

Oral Candidiasis

White Thrush



A condition resulting from excessive concentrations of thyroid hormones in the body, as in hyperthyroidism. [American Heritage].

Grave's Disease. [Random House].

Example from an 1838 Death Certificate from Ohio:

Tic Doloureux

A painful affection of a nerve, so called from its sudden and momentary excruciating stroke. The more appropriate name is neuralgia. It mostly attacks the face, particularly that branch of the fifth pair, which comes out of infra-orbitary foramen. [Hooper1843].

Severe pain affecting the nerves of the face, especially the infra-orbitary branches of the fifth pair. [Thomas1875]

Neuralgia. [Thomas1907]

Tick Fever

Relapsing fever. Any of various febrile diseases transmitted by ticks, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Texas fever. [Heritage]


Dancing Mania. [Dunglison1855]


Literally, a "moth-worm." Scaldhead. It is characterized by a pustular eruption, sometimes distinct and sometimes confluent, unaccompanied with fever, the pustules drying and hardening into thick scales or scabs. [Thomas1875]

A name applied to various skin diseases, but especially to ringworm. [CancerWEB]

Tinea Cruris

Jock Itch

Tinea Pedis

Athlete's Foot


A ringing or booming sensation in one or both ears; a symptom of an ear infection or Meniere's disease. [Wordnet]


Milk Sickness

Tisic, Tissick


Example from a 1734 London, England Death Record:


A staggering gait, sometimes dependent on disease of the nervous system. [Tuke1892]

Tobia Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever


A livid spot upon the body, indicating, or supposed to indicate, the approach of death. "Like the fearful tokens of the plague are mere forerunners of their ends." [CancerWEB]


Inflammation of the tonsils, especially the palatine tonsils. Cynanche Tonsillaris. [CancerWEB]

Example from an 1869 British regimental paper from India:


Dengue Fever

Tooth Rash

Strophulus Confertius


A deposit of urates around a joint or in the external ear; diagnostic of advanced or chronic gout. [Wordnet]


Severe griping or wringing pains in the bowels; also, dysentery. [Thomas1875]

Acute, colicky pains; gripes. [Webster]


Rheumatism of the neck [Dunglison1868]

Toxĉmia, Toxemia

Poisoning of the blood. [Dunglison1868].

Example from a 1921 Death Certificate from Georgia:


A name for the croup. [Thomas1875]


Cynanche trachealis. [Dunglison1874]

Inflammation of the trachea; another name for croup. [Thomas1875]


Torticollis. Also, gout in the neck. [Dunglison1868]


A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.  [Heritage]

Traumatic Fever

Elevation of temperature following an injury. [CancerWEB]

Trench Fever

Trench fever is a specific relapsing, infectious disease transmitted from man to man by the body louse, Pediculus humanus var. corporis. Blood and urine are infectious over a long period. It was first recognized during WWI during which period it is estimated to have caused roughly 25% of all cases of illness in the British Army in France and in the German and Austrian armies. It was especially prevalent among the heavily louse-infested troops in the field. [Saunders1945]

Trichina Spiralis

A small species of entozoa discovered in the muscles. May be the cause of the morbid phenomena produced by eating the flesh of animals in which they existed, and likewise of sausage poisoning resulting from eating pork and ham. Trichinosis.  [Dunglison1874]


A disease caused by eating undercooked meat, usually pork that contains trichinae, which develop as adults in the intestines and as larvae in the muscles, causing intestinal disorders, fever, nausea, muscular pain, and edema of the face. [Heritage]

Fact sheet from CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health


A firm closing of the jaw due to tonic spasm of the muscles of mastication from disease of the motor branch of the trigeminal nerve. It is usually associated with general tetanus. Also called lockjaw. [Heritage]

Trismus Nascentium

("Locked-Jaw of Infants.") Occurring usually within two weeks from their birth. [Thomas1875].

Example from an 1883 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Trismus Neonatorum

Tetanus in New-borns.

Example from an 1885 death certificate from Illinois:

Tropical Sore

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis

Tsutsugamushi Disease

Scrub Typhus


An infectious disease of humans and animals caused by the tubercle bacillus and characterized by the formation of tubercles on the lungs and other tissues of the body, often developing long after the initial infection. [Heritage]. Due to the variety of symptoms, TB was not identified as a unified disease until the 1820s and was not named tuberculosis until 1839 by J.L. Schoenlein. Some forms of the disease were probably known to the ancient Greeks, if not before, as the origins of the disease are in the first domestication of cattle (which also gave humanity viral poxes). [Webster].

"tuberculosis" was first used: 1860

Fact sheet from CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health
Fact sheet from WHO

Example from an 1883 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Tuberculosis of Bones and Joints

Tuberculosis involving the bones and joints, producing strumous arthritis, or white swelling, and cold abscess. [Dorland]

Miliary Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis. This form bears a striking resemblance to the infectious fevers, especially that of enteric fever. [Thomas1907].

An acute form in which tiny tubercles are formed in a number of organs of the body after dissemination of bacilli throughout the body by the bloodstream. [Dorland].

Example from a 1929 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:

Osseous Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis of bones and joints, tuberculosis involving the bones and joints, producing strumous arthritis, or white swelling, and cold abscess. [Dorland]

Tuberculosis Pneumonia

This uncommon type of TB presents as pneumonia and is very infectious. Patients have a high fever and productive cough. It occurs most often in extremely young children and the elderly. [Pulmonology]

Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Infection of the lung(s) with the pathogenic micro-organism known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. [Webster1913]

Example from a 1920 Death Certificate from Louisiana:

Tuberculous Spondylitis

Pott's Disease

Spinal Tuberculosis

Osteitis or caries of the vertebrae, usually occurring as a complication of tuberculosis of the lungs; it is marked by stiffness of the vertebral column, pain on motion, tenderness on pressure, prominence of certain of the vertebral spines, and occasionally abdominal pain, abscess formation, and paralysis. [Dorland]

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Tuberculous Adenitis

A form of tuberculosis characterized by swellings of the lymphatic glands. The bacteria spread throughout the body, and may cause rubbery enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck (cervical lymph nodes) as well as elsewhere. If these are not treated, the lymph nodes may become ulcerated, producing draining sores. [Webster1913]

Tuberculous Meningitis

M. tuberculosis can infect the meninges (the main membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord). This can be devastating, leading to permanent impairment and death. TB can be difficult to discern from a brain tumor because it may present as a focal mass in the brain with focal neurological signs. [Pulmonology]


Swollen; distended. Used of a body part or organ. [Heritage]


A morbid enlargement, from whatever cause; commonly applied to a permanent swelling or enlargement. Tumors may be distinguished into the sarcomatous, so named from their firm fleshy feel, and the encysted, commonly called wens. [Thomas1875]

A term applied, from the earliest period of medical literature, to any swelling of which the nature and origin were unknown. Thus used in its most literal sense, the word is of purely clinical derivation and has no pathological significance of any kind. Consequently a very heterogeneous collection of swellings have been described as tumors, including such diverse conditions as an abscess, a tubercular gland, the enlarged spleen of malaria or a cancer. With the progress of bacteriology and the improved technique of histology it has been found possible, however, to separate these various swellings into certain groups: (1) Inflammatory or Infective Tumors; (2) Tumors due to Hypertrophy; (3) Cysts; (4) Spontaneous Tumors, or Tumors proper. [Britannica1911].

An abnormal growth of tissue resulting from uncontrolled, progressive multiplication of cells and serving no physiological function; Neoplasm. [Heritage]

"tumor" was first used: sometime in the early 15th century. [Webster]

Example from a 1921 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Example from an 1864 Church Record from Slovakia:

Cystic Tumor

A tumor which is enclosed in a membrane called a cyst, connected with the surrounding parts by the neighboring cellular substance. [Webster]


Superabundance of humours in a part. The term Turgescence of Bile was formerly used to denote the passage of that fluid into the stomach and its discharge by vomiting. [Dunglison 1868].

Turgid Liver

Superabundance of humours in the liver. [Schmidt 2012].

Turkish Disease

Syphilis. The Persians called it the Turkish disease.

Turn of Life

Critical Age. That period of female life when the catamenia become irregular, and ultimately cease. It is often attended with serious constitutional disturbance, and is sometimes the commencement of fatal diseases. [Thomas1875].

Example from an 1869 death record from Michigan:

Tympanites / Tympany

A distention of the abdomen resulting from the accumulation of gas or air in the intestine or peritoneal cavity. Also called tympany. [Heritage].

Example from a 1760 Death Record from England:


Caecitis, also called typhlitis or typhlenteritis, is an inflammation of the caecum (part of the large intestine) that may be associated with infection. [Wikipedia].

Example from an 1897 death record from Michigan:


Typhoid Fever. "typhoid" was first used in popular English literature: sometime before 1856. [Webster]

Afebrile Typhoid Fever

Typhoid Fever with a sub-normal temperature; very rare. [Thomas1907]

Typhoid Cholera

Old term for cholera with predominantly cerebral manifestations such as confusion or dementia. [CancerWEB]

Typhoid Delirium

Typhomania; the low muttering delirium of typhus and typhoid fever.

Entry from a German Church in New York:

Typhoid Fever

A fever resembling typhus, but by many pathologists regarded as distinct, and characterized by inflammation and ulceration of the mucous follicles of the intestines. [Hoblyn1855]

Applied to a fever distinguished from typhus by a lesion of the intestines, but closely resembling it in other respects. By many it is thought to be typhus merely complicated with the intestinal lesion. [Thomas1875]

Typhoid or enteric fever is a specific infectious fever characterized mainly by its insidious onset, by a peculiar course of the temperature, by marked abdominal symptoms occurring in connection with a specific lesion of the bowels, by an eruption upon the skin, by its uncertain duration, and by a liability to relapses. This fever has received various names, such as gastric fever, abdominal typhus, infantile remittent fever, slow fever, nervous fever, pythogenic fever, etc. The name of " typhoid " was given by Louis in 1829, as a derivative from typhus. Until a comparatively recent period typhoid was not distinguished from typhus. For, although it had been noticed that the course of the disease and its morbid anatomy were different from those of ordinary cases of typhus, it was believed that they merely represented a variety of that malady. The distinction between the two diseases appears to have been first accurately made in 1836. [Britannica1911].

A disease formerly confounded with typhus, but essentially different from the latter. It is characterized by fever, lasting usually three or more weeks, diarrhea with evacuations resembling pea soup in appearance, and prostration and muscular debility, gradually increasing and often becoming profound at the acme of the disease. Its local lesions are a scanty eruption of spots, resembling flea bites, on the belly, enlargement of the spleen, and ulceration of the intestines over the areas occupied by Peyer's glands. The virus, or contagion, of this fever is supposed to be a microscopic vegetable organism, or bacterium. [Webster]

Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health

Example from an 1859 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from an 1870 death record from West Kentucky:

Entry from a Civil War Hospital Record:

Typhoid Fever of India Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].

Typhoid Malaria

Typhomalarial Fever

Typhoid Pleurisy

An obsolete term for acute or subacute pleurisy with typhoid symptoms. [CancerWEB]

Typhoid Pneumonia

Bilious Pneumonia [Dunglison1874].

Pneumonia with typhoid symptoms or accompanying typhoid fever; children may develop bronchopneumonia and adults may develop lobar pneumonia, with suppuration and empyema. [Dorland].

Pneumonia complicating typhoid fever. [CancerWEB]

Typhomalarial Fever

A form of fever having symptoms both of malarial and typhoid fever. [CancerWEB].

Example from an 1891 death certificate from West Virginia:


Malignant fever. [Hoblyn1855]

A kind of continued fever, attended with great prostration of the nervous and vascular systems, with a tendency to putrefaction in the fluids, and vitiation of the secretions; putrid fever. [Thomas1875]

A group of acute, arthropod-borne infections caused by rickettsiae that are closely related clinically and pathologically but differ in signs and symptoms and severity; all are characterized by severe headache, chills, high fever, stupor, and a macular, maculopapular, petechial, or papulovesicular eruption. The three entities making up the group are epidemic t., its recrudescent form (Brill-Zinsser disease), and murine t. Called also typhus fever. In English-speaking countries, often used alone to refer to epidemic typhus, whereas in several European languages it refers to typhoid fever. [Dorland].

"typhus" was first used: 1785. [Webster]

Example from a Mecklenburg, Germany Church Death Record:

Abdominal Typhus

Typhoid Fever.

Example from an 1890 Death Certificate from Illinois:

African Tick Typhus

One of the tick-borne rickettsial diseases of the eastern hemisphere, similar to rocky mountain spotted fever, but less severe, with fever, a small ulcer (tache noire) at the site of the tick bite, swollen glands nearby (satellite lymphadenopathy), and a red raised (maculopapular) rash. Also called fièvre boutonneuse. [CancerWEB]

Typhus Carcerum

Jail Fever. [Hooper1822]

("Typhus of prisons.") The jail-fever, a name for typhus gravior; also called febris carcerum ("fever of prisons"). [Thomas1875].

Typhus Castrensis ("Camp typhus.") A name for typhus gravior; otherwise called febris castrensis, or "camp fever." These names, however, must be understood to refer to European armies. Typhus, in its unmixed character, has seldom, if ever, made its appearance in the armies of the United States. [Thomas1875]

Typhus Egyptiacus

Plague of Egypt

Endemic Typhus

Murine Typhus

Epidemic Typhus

A severe acute disease with prolonged high fever up to 40° c (104° f), intractable headache, and a pink-to-red raised rash. The cause is a microorganism called rickettsia prowazekii. It is found worldwide and is transmitted by lice. [CancerWEB]

European Typhus

Epidemic Typhus

Typhus Fever


Example from an 1826 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Flea Typhus

Murine Typhus

Typhus Gravior

Epidemic Typhus. A severe species of typhus. [Hooper1822]

("Severe typhus.") The malignant form of typhus; also called, according to circumstances, febris cancerum, and febris castrensis. [Thomas1875]

Typhus Ichteroides

Yellow Fever

Typhus Icterus

Typhus with symptoms of jaundice. [Hooper1822]

Louse-borne Typhus

Epidemic Typhus

Mite Typhus

Scrub Typhus

Typhus Mitior
The Low Fever. [Hooper1822]
Is characterized by slight Shiverings; heavy, vertginous headache; great oppression, peculiar expression of anxiety, nausea, sighing, despondency, and coma or quiet delirium. [Dunglison1868]

("Milder typhus.") The milder form of typhus, or low fever; slow fever; also called febris lenta ("slow fever"), febris nervosa ("nervous fever"). [Thomas1875]

Murine Typhus

An acute infectious disease with fever, headache, and rash, all quite similar to, but milder than, epidemic typhus, caused by a related microorganism, rickettsia typhi (mooseri), transmitted to humans by rat fleas (xenopsylla cheopis). The animal reservoir includes rats, mice and other rodents. Murine typhus occurs sporadically worldwide but is more prevalent in congested rat-infested urban areas. Also known as endemic typhus, rat-flea typhus, and urban typhus of malaya. [CancerWEB]

Typhus Petechialis

Typhus Gravior with purple spots. [Hooper1822]

Recrudescent Typhus

A recrudescence of epidemic typhus occurring years after the initial infection. [Dorland]

Typhus Recurrens

Relapsing Fever

Scrub Typhus

A mite-borne infectious disease caused by a microorganism, rickettsia tsutsugamushi, characteristically with fever, headache, a raised (macular) rash, swollen glands (lymphadenopathy) and a dark crusted ulcer (called an eschar or tache noire) at the site of the chigger (mite larva) bite. This disease occurs in the area bounded by Japan, India, and Australia. Known also as tsutsugamushi disease, mite-borne typhus, and tropical typhus. [CancerWEB]

Shop Typhus

A mild form of typhus occurring in urban areas, reported in Mediterranean areas. [CancerWEB]

Sinking Typhus

Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis

Typhus Syncopalis

Cerebro-Spinal Fever


A species of Leprosy in which the skin may be easily withdrawn from the flesh. [Hooper1822]