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English Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms

Bad Blood Bad blood – a) toxicity in the body due to body system deficiencies, sluggish action of liver or colon; b) inability of body to naturally detoxify; c) genetic predisposition; d) syphilis.

Baghdad Boil

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis

Baker's Cyst

A swelling behind the knee that is composed of a membrane-lined sac filled with synovial fluid and is associated with certain joint disorders (as arthritis). [Merriam]

Banti's Syndrome / Disease

A disease characterized by congestion and enlargement of the spleen; accompanied by anemia or cirrhosis. [Wordnet]

A disorder characterized by congestion and great enlargement of the spleen usually accompanied by anemia, leukopenia, and cirrhosis of the liver called also Banti's syndrome. [Merriam Webster]

Example from an 1928 death certificate from Alabama:


A vernacular Indian term, of unknown derivation. It demotes a chronic affection, prevalent in India, and almost universally confounded by nosologists with beriberi. [Hoblyn1855]

A disease of India and the Malabar coast; a peculiar species of Palsy. [Thomas1875]

A variety of paralysis peculiar to India and the Malabar coast considered by many to be the same as beriberi in chronic form. [Webster1913]


A name given to the victims of a religious hysterical epidemic which spread through the United States in 1798-1805. The subjects used to fling themselves on the ground howling and barking like dogs. [Tuke1892]

Barking Cough

A bark like cough of children, seen in croup and other conditions. [Dorland]

Barrel Chest

A chest permanently resembling the shape of a barrel, i.e., with increased anteroposterior diameter, roughly equaling the lateral diameter; usually with some degree of kyphosis; seen in cases of emphysema. [CancerWEB]

Bay Sore

A disease considered by Dr. Mosely as true cancer, commencing with an ulcer. It is endemic at the Bay of Honduras. [Hoblyn1855]

Chiclero Ulcer

Beading of the Ribs

Rachitic Rosary


A small inflammatory tumor; a pustule. [Webster]

Bealing Pregnant, Suppuration (formation or discharge of pus). [Dunglison1874].

Bealing is an infected sore that is drawn out with a poultice and lanced. "Dictionary of Prince Edward Island, T.K. Pratt, no year given.

Bealing in the Throat

Beal - A small inflammatory tumor; a pustule. To gather matter; to swell and come to a head, as a pimple. See Boil a tumor. (Prov. Eng.) [Webster1913].

Example from an 1853 mortality schedule from Kentucky:

Beaver Fever



Nonvenereal endemic syphilis now found chiefly among Arab children; apparently due to Treponema pallidum. [CancerWEB]








A spasmodic rigidity of the lower limbs, etc.; an acute disease occurring in India, and commonly considered the same as Barbiers, - but the latter is a chronic disease. The word beriberi is, in all probability, derived from the reduplication of the Hindu word beri, signifying irons or fetters fastened to the legs of criminals, elephants, etc. A person afflicted with this disease is literally :fettered." [Thomas1875]

An acute disease occurring in India, characterized by multiple inflammatory changes in the nerves, producing great muscular debility, a painful rigidity of the limbs, and cachexy. [Webster1913]

A disease caused by a deficiency of thiamine, endemic in eastern and southern Asia and characterized by neurological symptoms, cardiovascular abnormalities, and edema. [Heritage].

Wet Beriberi

A form of Beriberi marked by cardiac failure and edema, but without extensive nervous system involvement. [Dorland]


A disease of Bengal, remarkable for the intensity and danger of the cerebral symptoms. [Dunglison1874]

Bile or Gall

A fluid which is secreted by th eliver into the gall bladder, and from thence passes into the intestines, in order to promote digestion. [Buchan1798]

Bilharzia / Bilharziasis

An infection with a parasite of the genus Schistosoma; common in the tropics and Far East; symptoms depend on the part of the body infected; Schistosomiasis. [Heritage]

Fact sheet from CDC


A term very generally made use of, to express diseases which arise from too copious a secretion of bile: thus bilious colic, bilious diarrhea, bilious fever, etc. [Hooper1829].

That which relates to bile, contains bile, or is produced by bile. An epithet given to certain constitutions and diseases, which are believed to be the effect of superabundance of the biliary secretion; as bilious fever, but often used, without any definite idea, as regards the bile, being attached to it. Biliousness is the state of being bilious. [Dunglison1874]

Bilious Fever

When a continual, remitting, or intermitting fever is accompanied with a frequent or copious evacuation of bile, either by vomit or stool, the fever is denominated bilious. [Buchan1785].

The common remittent fever of summer and autumn; generally supposed to be owing to, or connected with, derangement of the biliary system. [Dunglison1855].

Typhoid fever, Remittent fever or simple gastritis. [Appleton1904].

A term loosely applied to certain intestinal and malarial fevers. See typhus. [Thomas1907].

An ephemeral fever attended with symptoms of gastric catarrh and excessive secretion of bile. [Stedman 1918].

Example from an 1828 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Example from an 1868 death certificate from West Virginia:

Bilious Pneumonia

Inflammation of the lungs, accompanied by gastric fever, and not uncommonly by typhoid symptoms. [Dunglison1874]

Bilious Remittent Fever

Yellow Fever. [Dunglison1874].

One type of malarial fever, known as bilious remittent, has long been recognized on account of the bilious vomiting, gastric distress, sometimes bilious diarrhea, sometime constipation, which accompany the recurring exacerbations. It is further distinguished by the pronounced icteric or, rather, reddish yellow or saffron tint of the skin and sclera; a tint derived, probably, not from absorption of bile as in obstructive jaundice but from modified hemoglobin free in the blood or deposited in the derma. They are not specially nor directly dangerous themselves, but they result usually in profound anemia, and are often but the prelude to chronic malarial saturation, bad health and invaliding. [Manson1898].

Archaic term for relapsing fever characterized by bilious vomiting and diarrhea. [CivilWarMed].

Example from an 1883 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Bilious Typhoid Fever

Relapsing fever with jaundice. [Appleton1904]


Gastric distress caused by a disorder of the liver or gall bladder. [Wordnet]

Biskra Button

The lesion occurring in cutaneous leishmaniasis. [CancerWEB]

Black Canker

A corroding or sloughing ulcer; esp. a spreading gangrenous ulcer or collection of ulcers in or about the mouth; Noma. [Webster]

Black Death

The name given in Germany and the North of Europe to an Oriental plague which occurred in the fourteenth century, characterized by inflammatory boils and black spots on the skin, indicating putrid decomposition. In many of its characters this pestilence resembled the present bobo plague, complicated with pneumonia and hemorrhages. [Thomas1875]

A form of bubonic plague, caused by Yersinia pestis, that was pandemic throughout Europe and much of Asia in the 14th century. [Heritage].

Cerebro-spinal fever or epidemic cerebro-spinal meningitis, popularly called spotted fever, is an infectious disease occurring sporadically or in epidemics. This disease was not recognized until the 19th century. In Great Britain it first showed itself in the Irish workhouses in 1846, where it was known as the black death or malignant-purpuric fever. [Britannica1911].

Black Disease

The common name of more than one disease, as of black jaundice, and of melæna. [Leland1889]

Black Dog Hypochondriasis. [Dunglison1874].

Depression. This term was used by Sir Winston Churchill to describe his depression.

Black English Sweating Sickness/Fever

Sudor Anglicus Niger

Black Fever

Cerebrospinal meningitis. [Appleton1904].

An acute tick-borne illness caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. The disease is characterized by sudden onset of headache, chills and fever which can persist for 2-3 weeks. A characteristic rash appears on the extremities and trunk about the 4th day of illness; Visceral Leishmaniasis. [CancerWEB]

Black Leg Purpura Haemorrhagica. The spots are circular, and of different sizes; often in stripes or patches, irregularly scattered over the thighs, arms and trunk; with occasional hemorrhage from the mouth, nostrils, or viscera, and great debility and depression of spirits. Black Leg is one form of this disease. It occurs particular among the lumberman of Canada, and seems to be dependent on the coarse diet used by them. [Dunglison 1874].

Black Lion

A term given to a sloughing syphilitic ulcer, under which the British soldiers suffered greatly in Portugal. [Dunglison1874]

Black Pox

Hemorrhagic Smallpox

Black Rose

Erysipelas: The term Black Rose was used interchangeably with Erysipelas in a letter by Dr. Livingstone in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of 1874.

Example from an 1890 death record from Michigan:

Black Sickness


Black Tongue

A fever which prevailed in the western states in the winter of 1842-3; probably typhoid fever. According to some, an epidemic erysipelas. [Dunglison1855].

Erysipelas in the United States. [Erysipelas and Child-Bed Fever, Minor, 1874].

Erysipelas of the fauces. [A manual of modern surgery: general and operative. Chalmers Da Costa, 1894].

A disease of dogs similar to human pellagra and due to niacin deficiency. [CancerWEB]

Example from an 1879 death certificate from West Virginia:

Black Vomit

This is one of the fatal symptoms of yellow fever, it being a very rare case for a patient to recover after its occurrence. [Hooper1843].

The throwing up, in certain fevers, of a dark colored fluid resembling coffee grounds. This fluid consists chiefly of blood changed by morbid secretions of the stomach. It is one of the most fatal symptoms attending yellow fever, which in Spanish is often called simply El vomito ("the vomit"), or El vomito negro ("the black vomit"). [Thomas1875]

A copious vomiting of dark-colored matter; or the substance so discharged; one of the most fatal symptoms in yellow fever. [CancerWEB].


English term for Pyrosis [Hooper1822]

Blackwater Fever

Severe and often fatal malaria characterized by kidney damage resulting in dark urine. [Wordnet]

Bladder Stone

Vesicle Calculus

Bladder Worm



A pustule, blotch, or sore. [Thomas1875]

An inflammatory swelling or sore; a bulla, pustule, or blister. [Dorland]

Blear Eye A chronic catarrhal inflammation of the eyelids. [Thomas1875]



Example from a 1754 Death Record from England:


Former name for gonorrhea. [Dorland]

Blood Clot

A semisolid mass of coagulated red and white blood cells. [Wordnet]

Blood Fluke

Flatworms parasitic in the blood vessels of mammals (syn: schistosome) [Wordnet]

Blood Poisoning

A presumed condition of the blood, in which its constitution is modified by the reception into it of substances that render it noxious or unfit for healthy nutrition. [Dunglison1874].

A condition in which the essential physical or chemical properties of the blood are altered by the introduction of some toxic agent; a popular term for septicemia and pyæmia. [Appleton1904].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Blood turned to Water Weak-willed (weak as water); physically weak; anemia.

Bloody Sweat

A sweat accompanied by a discharge of blood; a disease, called sweating sickness, formerly prevalent in England and other countries. [Webster1913]

Bloody Urine


Blue Boar

A venereal disease. [Farmer1905].

Blue Cough

Whooping cough accompanied by cyanosis; caused by obstruction of the blood vessels in the face during severe coughing. [Schmidt2007]

Blue Disease

Morbus Coeruleus; discoloration of the skin in malformations of the heart. [Cleaveland1886].

Cyanosis or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever [CancerWEB]

Body Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Body Lice



A hard, painful, inflamed tumor, which, on suppuration, discharges pus, mixed with blood, and discloses a small fibrous mass of dead tissue, called the core. [Webster1913].

A painful, circumscribed pus-filled inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissue usually caused by a local staphylococcal infection. Also called furuncle. [Heritage]

Bone Shave

Sciatica; neuralgia femoropoplites.

Boo Boo

A name applied in the Sandwich Islands to a kind of fever which attacks only new comers, characterized by great depression of spirits and moaning (whence the name); probably a subacute gastritis. Written also boubou. [Appleton1904]

Bouquet /Fever

Dengue fever

Boutonneuse Fever

African Tick Typhus

Brain Death

Irreversible brain damage and loss of brain function, as evidenced by cessation of breathing and other vital reflexes, unresponsiveness to stimuli, absence of muscle activity, and a flat electroencephalogram for a specific length of time. [Dorland]

Brain Fever

Cerebral fever, phrenitis. [Dunglison1874].

Meningitis. [NGSQ1988]

Cerebral meningitis. [Stedman 1918].

Inflammation of the brain or meninges, as in encephalitis or meningitis. [Heritage].

Meningitis caused by bacteria and often fatal. Synonyms: cerebrospinal fever, cerebrospinal meningitis, epidemic meningitis. [Wordnet].

Example from an 1854 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from an 1850 Mortality Schedule from Chicago:


Of, relating to, or induced by a mental disorder; insane or mad. [Heritage]

Chronic Brain Wasting A form of mental disorder characterized mainly by confusion, failure of the memory, inability to concentrate the attention, and general inertia. [Appleton1904]


Vomiting, vomiturition. [Dunglison1874]


A hernia; a rupture.

Breakbone /Fever

An acute mosquito-borne viral illness of sudden onset that usually follows a benign course with headache, fever, prostration, severe joint and muscle pain, swollen glands (lymphadenopathy) and rash. The presence (the "dengue triad") of fever, rash, and headache (and other pains) is particularly characteristic. Better known as dengue, the disease is endemic throughout the tropics and subtropics. It goes by other names including dandy fever. Victims of dengue often have contortions due to the intense joint and muscle pain. Hence, the name "breakbone fever." Slaves in the West Indies who contracted dengue were said to have "dandy fever" because of their postures and gait. [Medicinenet]

Breast Pang

Angina Pectoris

Bright's Disease

Any of several diseases of the kidney marked by the presence of albumin in the urine; Nephritis. [Heritage].

A vague and obsolete term for disease of the kidneys - acute or chronic. [Whonamedit].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Brill's Disease

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

Broken Constitution Loss of vital energy.

Broken-Wing Fever



Fetid or foul smelling perspiration. [CancerWEB]

Bronchial Catarrh



Inflammation of the bronchi, or ramifications of the trachea. It is known by the vernacular terms, bronchial inflammation, inflammatory catarrh, bastard peripneumony, and suffocative catarrh. [Hoblyn1855]

Inflammation, acute or chronic, of the bronchial tubes or any part of them. [Webster].

"bronchitis" was first used in popular English literature: sometime before 1865. [Webster]

Example from an 1858 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from an 1887 death certificate from England:

Bronchitis Capillaris

When bronchitis affects the smaller tubes, it is termed capillary bronchitis. [Dunglison 1874].

Example from an 1862 Church Record in Münster, Switzerland

Capillary Bronchitis


Catarrhal Bronchitis


Fetid Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis with fetid expectoration. [Dunglison1868]

Fibrinous Bronchitis

Inflammation of the bronchial mucous membrane, accompanied by a fibrinous exudation, which often forms a cast of the bronchial tree with severe obstruction of air flow. [CancerWEB]

Plastic Bronchitis

Fibrinous Bronchitis

Purulent Bronchitis

The Spanish Influenza

Summer Bronchitis

Hay Fever


This disease is marked by a tumour on the fore-part of the neck, and seated between the trachea and skin. In general, it has been supposed principally to occupy the thyroid gland. We are given to understand that it is a very common disorder in Derbyshire; but its occurrence is by no means frequent in other parts of Great Britain, or in Ireland. Among inhabitants of the Alps, and other mountainous countries bordering thereon, it is a disease very often met with, and is there known by the name of goitre. [Hooper1843].

An indolent swelling of the thyroid gland; goitre; tracheocele. Called also Derbyshire neck. [Thomas1875].

An enlargement of the thyroid glands. The whole gland may be swollen, or only the center, or either side, more frequently the right. This often produces scanty menstruation or profuse leucorrhoea. [Wilson1893]


A form of inflammation of the lungs which commences in the bronchioles and spreads to the surrounding lung tissue; synonymous with lobular pneumonia. [Hoblyn 1900].

Is inflammation of the lung tissue, associated with catarrh and with marked evidences of inflammation of bronchial membranes, often chronic; -- also called lobular pneumonia, from its affecting single lobules at a time. [Webster].

Example from an 1893 death certificate from England:


An increased secretion of mucus from the air passages, accompanied or not by inflammation, a gleet, as it were, of the pulmonary mucous membrane, Pneumorrhea. When excessive, it may constitute phthisis pituitosa. [Dunglison 1868].

Bronze John Texas term for Yellow Fever; commonly called Yellow Jack. [Farmer1905].

Texas term for Yellow Fever [Blaschke1907].

Listed in the 1909 Manual of the International Causes of Death 2nd Revision under the same heading as Addison’s Disease.

Bronzed Skin Disease

Addison’s Disease

Buboe / Bubo

Inflammatory swelling of one or more lymph nodes, usually in the groin, usually suppurating. [CivilWarMed]

Bubonocele A species of hernia in which part of the bowels protrudes at the abdominal ring; synonymous with inguinal hernia. [Thomas1875]



Bucket Fever


Bulam Fever A name given by the natives of the African coast to yellow fever. [Thomas1875]


An eating disorder, common especially among young women of normal or nearly normal weight that is characterized by episodic binge eating and followed by feelings of guilt, depression, and self-condemnation. It is often associated with measures taken to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, dieting, or fasting. Also called bulimarexia, bulimia nervosa. [Heritage]

Bulla A bleb or blister, consisting of a portion of the epidermis detached from the skin by the infiltration beneath it of watery fluid, the result of liquefaction-necrosis. [Gould1916]


Murder, especially by suffocation, committed for the purpose of obtaining material for dissection; so called from the practice of one Burke, of Dublin. Also called Burkism. [Appleton1904]

Burnt Holes

A variety of Rupia, popularly known in Ireland under this name; and not unfrequent there amongst the ill-fed children of the poor. [Dunglison1868]


Inflammation of a bursa, especially in the shoulder, elbow, or knee joint. [Heritage]