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English Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms

Gall Fever

Remittent fever in the Netherlands. [Appleton1904]

Gall Sickness

A popular name for the remitting fever occasioned by marsh miasmata, in the Netherlands, and which proved so fatal to thousands of the English soldiers after the capture of Walcheren in the year 1809. [Hooper1829]

Walcheren fever. [Dunglison1855]

A remitting bilious fever in the Netherlands. --Dunglison. [Webster1913]

Gall Stones

A concretion formed in the gallbladder or bile duct; the usual composition is cholesterol, a blood pigment liberated by hemolysis, or a calcium salt. Called also biliary calculus and cholelith. [Dorland].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:


Venereal excrescence. [Buchan1798].


Mortification. [Buchan1798].

A term formerly restricted to mortification of the soft tissues which has not advanced so far as to produce complete loss of vitality; but now applied to mortification of the soft parts in any stage. [Webster1913].

Death and decay of body tissue, often occurring in a limb, caused by insufficient blood supply and usually following injury or disease. [Heritage].

"gangrene" was first used: 14th century. [Webster].

Example from an 1883 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Gangrene of the Mouth


Cold Gangrene

Dry Gangrene.

Diabetic Gangrene

Moist gangrene associated with diabetes. [Dorland].

Example from a 1924 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:

Dry Gangrene

A form of gangrene in which the involved part is dry and shriveled. [CancerWEB].

Example from a 1949 death certificate from Minnesota:

Gas Gangrene

Gangrene occurring in a wound infected with bacteria of the genus Clostridium, especially C. perfringens, and characterized by the presence of gas in the affected tissue. [Heritage].

Hospital Gangrene

A combination of humid gangrene with phagedenic ulceration, occurring in crowded hospitals, etc.; also termed phagedena gangraenosa, putrid ao malignant ulcer, hospital sore, etc. [Hoblyn1855].

Gangrene, occurring in wounds or ulcers, in hospitals. [Dunglison1868]

Humid Gangrene

That form of gangrene in which the affected part contains more or less decomposed blood or other fluids. [Appleton1904]

Intestinal Gangrene

Catarrh of the Intestines. See Gangrene. [Dorland]

Pressure Gangrene

Decubitus, Bed Sore, Gangrenous Decubitus.

Wet Gangrene

Humid Gangrene


Cancer aquaticus; also, gangrenous inflammation of the eyelids. [Dunglison1868].

Example from an 1828 Death Certificate from Pennsylvania:

Gangrenous Stomatitis

Gangrene of the cheek and gums, affecting delicate and sickly children, rarely the adult, and characterized by a rapid destruction of tissue. The disease is generally fatal. Noma. Cancer aquaticus. [Thomas1907]

Gaol Fever

Epidemic Typhus.

Gaol: A place of confinement, especially for minor offenses or provisional imprisonment; a jail. [Webster1913]



Gastric Fever

A name given by some to bilious fever, which was thought to depend on gastric derangement. [Thomas1875]

Fever; one in which the inflammation of the stomach is the prominent feature. [Cleaveland1886]

Typhoid Fever. [Britannica1911].

Catarrhal Gastritis. [Stedman 1918].

Example from an 1858 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:

Gastric Ulcer

A peptic ulcer of the gastric mucosa. [Dorland]


Inflammation of the stomach. [Dorland].

Example from an 1859 death certificate from West Virginia:

Catarrhal Gastritis

An inflammatory affection of any mucous membrane, in which there are congestion, swelling, and an alteration in the quantity and quality of mucus secreted; as, catarrh of the stomach; catarrh of the bladder. [Webster1913]

Chronic Gastritis

Persistent gastritis can be a symptom of a gastric ulcer or pernicious anemia or stomach cancer or other disorders. [Wordnet]


A hernia of the stomach. [Appleton1904]


Inflammation of the stomach and duodenum.




Inflammation of the stomach and intestines; caused by Salmonella enteritidis. [Wordnet].

Example from a 1921 Death Certificate from Georgia:


The making of a new passage between the stomach and the duodenum (gastroduodenostomy) or, esp., the jejunum (gastrojejunostomy). [].

Surgical formation of an artificial opening between the stomach and the small intestine. [Collins].

Example from a 1918 death certificate from Minnesota:



Any disease of the stomach. [Appleton1904]


A morbid condition of the stomach, which consists in the secretion of an excessive quantity of mucus from the lining membrane of the stomach. Also called Coeliac flux. [Dunglison1855]


Suppuration, abscess. [Dunglison1874].

A tumor or boil suppurated or maturated; an abscess. [Webster].

Example from a 1914 Death Certificate from North Carolina:

Genital Herpes

Herpes II

Genital Warts

Venereal Warts


Intestinal infection with the protozoan Giardia lamblia. It is usually asymptomatic in humans but may produce abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. [Heritage]

Fact sheet from CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health


Extreme kyphosis, hump, or hunch; a deformity of spine in which there is a sharply angulated segment, the apex of the angle being posterior.  [CancerWEB]




Dengue Fever


Cynanche Parotidea. [Dunglison1855]

Glandular Fever

An acute disease characterized by fever and swollen lymph nodes; some believe it can be transmitted by kissing; Infectious Mononucleosis. [Wordnet]

Glass Pox



Any of a group of eye diseases characterized by abnormally high intraocular fluid pressure, damaged optic disk, hardening of the eyeball, and partial to complete loss of vision. [Heritage]


A thin matter issuing out of ulcers, but generally applied to a result of gonorrheal disease. [Thomas1875]

A thin morbid discharge as from a wound or esp. chronic gonorrhea. [Wordnet]


A colloid neoplasm of the central nervous system, formed by the proliferation of neuroglia cells. [Appleton1904]

A tumor springing from the neuroglia or connective tissue of the brain, spinal cord, or other portions of the nervous system. [Webster1913]

A brain tumor that begin in a glial, or supportive, cell, in the brain or spinal cord. Malignant gliomas are the most common primary tumors of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). They are often resistant to treatment and carry a poor prognosis (have a dismal outlook). [MedicineNet]


Inflammation of the tongue.


Paralysis of the Tongue. [Dorland]

Goiter / Goitre

A Swiss term for bronchocele. [Thomas1875]

A noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland, visible as a swelling at the front of the neck, that is often associated with iodine deficiency. Also called Struma. [Dorland].

Example from a 1921 Death Certificate from Illinois:

Exophthalmic Goiter

An anemic condition, accompanied by protrusion of the eyeballs, palpitation of the heart and arteries, an tumefaction of the thyroid gland. [Dunglison1868].

A condition usually caused by excessive production of thyroid hormone and characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland, protrusion of the eyeballs, a rapid heartbeat, and nervous excitability. Also called Graves’ disease. [American Heritage].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:


Gout or Rheumatism of the knees. [Dunglison1868]


A discharge resembling pus, from the urethra, with heat of urine, etc., after impure coition, to which often succeeds a discharge of mucous from the urethra, with little or no dysury, called the gleet. This disease is also called Flour albus malignus and Blennorrhagia. In English, a clap, from old French word clapises, which were public shops, kept and inhabited by single prostitutes, and generally confined to a particular quarter of the town, as is even now the case in several of the great towns in Italy. In Germany, the disorder is named tripper, from dripping; and in French, chaudpisse, from the heat and scalding in making water. [Hooper1843].

A sexually transmitted disease caused by gonococcal bacteria that affects the mucous membrane chiefly of the genital and urinary tracts and is characterized by an acute purulent discharge and painful or difficult urination, though women often have no symptoms. [Heritage]

Fact sheet from CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health


A constitutional disease, occurring by paroxysms. It consists in an inflammation of the fibrous and ligamentous parts of the joints, and almost always attacks first the great toe, next the smaller joints, after which it may attack the greater articulations. It is attended with various sympathetic phenomena, particularly in the digestive organs. It may also attack internal organs, as the stomach, the intestines, etc. --Dunglison. [Webster1913].

A disturbance of uric-acid metabolism occurring chiefly in males, characterized by painful inflammation of the joints, especially of the feet and hands, and arthritic attacks resulting from elevated levels of uric acid in the blood and the deposition of urate crystals around the joints. The condition can become chronic and result in deformity. [Heritage].

Gout is condition characterized by an overload of uric acid in the body and recurring attacks of joint inflammation (arthritis). Chronic gout can lead to deposits of hard lumps of uric acid in and around the joints, decreased kidney function, and kidney stones. [Medicinenet].

"gout" was first used: 12th century. [Webster]

Example from a 1734 Death Record from England:

Aberrant Gout Passing from one part to another, but usually attended with inflammation of some internal organ. [Thomas1875]
Atonic Gout Accompanied with atony of the stomach, or other internal part, with the usual inflammation of the joints, or with slight and temporary pains; with dyspepsia and other symptoms of atony often alternating with each other. [Thomas1875]

Flying Gout


Gout of the Hip

Coxagra; neuralgia femoropoplites.

Misplaced Gout Aberrant gout. A variety of irregular gout in which the inflammatory action is prevented from attacking the joints, and is directed to an internal organ. [Hoblyn1900].
Regular Gout Violent inflammation, remaining for a few days, and gradually reseeding with swelling, itching, and desquamation of a part. [Thomas1875]
Retrograde Gout Also termed retrocedent gout. Characterized by inflammation of the joints suddenly disappearing, and atony of some internal part immediately following. [Thomas1875]

Rheumatic Gout

Acute Rheumatism.

Example from an 1876 death certificate from Australia:

Gout of the Stomach


Wandering Gout

Podagra Aberrans

Gouty Arthritis

Arthritis due to gout. [Dorland]


The formation of a small granular mass on a wound that is healing. [CivilWarMed]


A popular term applied either to calculus matter formed in the kidneys, passing off in the urine, or to small distinct calculi or concretions. It is distinguished from stone in the bladder by being of smaller size. [Thomas1875]

A deposit of small calculus concretions in the kidneys and the urinary or gall bladder; also, the disease of which they are a symptom; Nephrolithiasis. [Webster].

Example from a 1740 Death Record from England: "Gravilly Stone"

Example from an 1885 Death Record from Michigan:

Hairy Gravel

Gravel with hairs. [Dunglison1868]

Grave's Disease

An autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland characterized by excessive production of thyroid hormone, goiter, protrusion of the eyeballs (exophthalmos), and symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as rapid heartbeat and weight loss. The disease is named after its discoverer, Irish physician Robert James Graves (1796-1853). [American Heritage].

Great Pox


Green Sickness

The disease of maids, occasioned by celibacy. [Grose1788]

The popular term for chlorosis, from the pale, lurid, and greenish cast of the skin. [Hoblyn1855]




Example from a 1740 Death Record from England:


To have sharp pains in the bowels. [Dorland]


A vulgar name for several catarrhal diseases, which have reigned epidemically; as the influenza. [Dunglison1855]

The French name for Influenza. [Thomas1875].

Example from an 1838 Church Record in Herblingen, Switzerland

Guinea Worm

A worm found chiefly in the East and West Indies. It is said to be frequently twelve feet long, and about the thickness of a horse hair; it burrows under the cuticle, and "may be felt under the skin, and traced by fingers like the string of a violin. It should be drawn out with great caution, by means of a piece of silk tied round its head; for if, by being too much strained, the animal break, the part remaining under the skin will grow with double vigor, and often occasion a fatal inflammation."-(Good). [Thomas1875]

Parasitic roundworm of India and Africa that lives beneath the skin of man and other vertebrates.

Fact sheet from CDC




Venereal excrescence. [Buchan1798]


A small rubbery granuloma that is characteristic of an advanced stage of syphilis [Wordnet]

Gum Rash

Strophulus in a teething child; red gum.