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English Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms


An epithet given by Sylvius to a kind of intermittent fever, attended with copious stools. [Hooper1829]

Diarrhoea. [Dunglison1868]


A degenerated or poisoned condition of the blood. [Webster]

Cachectic Fever

Kala Azar. [Stedman 1918].


A bad habit of body, known by a depraved or vitiated state of the solids and fluids. [Hooper1829].

A condition in which the system of nutrition is evidently depraved. A bad habit of body, chiefly the result of scorbutic, cancerous, tuberculous or venereal diseases when in their advanced stages. [Dunglison1874].

A condition of ill health and impairment of nutrition due to impoverishment of the blood, esp. when caused by a specific morbid process (as cancer or tubercle). [Webster1913].

Weight loss, wasting of muscle, loss of appetite, and general debility that can occur during a chronic disease. [Heritage].

Any general reduction in vitality and strength of body and mind resulting from a debilitating chronic disease (syn: cachexy, wasting). [Wordnet].

Example from a 1917 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Cachexia Africana Chthonophagia




An unhealthy state of the body. [Buchan1798]


Troubled with bad digestion. [Webster1913]


Bad state of Pulse. -Galen [Dunglison1855]

Caddy Stools

The evacuations in yellow fever, which resemble fine, dark, sandy mud. [Appleton1904]

Calculus / Calculi

Any solid concretion, formed in any part of the body, but most frequent in the organs that act as reservoirs, and in the passages connected with them; as, biliary calculi; urinary calculi, etc. [Webster1913].

An abnormal concretion in the body usually formed of mineral salts and found in the gallbladder, kidney, or urinary bladder, for example. Gravel. [Dorland].

A solid mass, usually composed of inorganic material, formed in a cavity or tissue of the body. Calculi are most commonly found in the gallbladder, kidney, or urinary bladder. Also called stone. [American Heritage].

Calculus Vesicĉ

Urinary Calculus.

Calculus Vesicĉ; stone in the bladder. [Dunglison1868].

Example from an 1862 Death Certificate from England:

Urinary Calculus

A hard mass of mineral salts in the urinary tract. Also called cystolith, urolith. [American Heritage].

Calenture / Calentura

A febrile delirium, said to be peculiar to sailors, wherein they imagine the sea to be green fields and will throw themselves into it if not restrained. [Hooper1829]

A violent fever, attended with delirium, incident to persons in hot countries. Under its influence it is said that sailors imagine the sea to be green fields, and will throw themselves into it, if not restrained. [Hoblyn1855]

Fever. The term was used by the old Spanish navigators to denote any form of fever with delirium observed in the tropics, and from them Sauvages adopted it as the name of a special disease (which has been described as peculiar to mariners and characterized by a particular form of delirium in which the patient, unless prevented, will jump into the sea, thinking that he is walking into green fields); but its use in the sense has been discarded. [Applton1904].

A name formerly given to various fevers occurring in tropics; esp. to a form of furious delirium accompanied by fever, among sailors, which sometimes led the affected person to imagine the sea to be a green field, and to throw himself into it. [Webster1913]

Camp Fever

This term was used for all of the continuing fevers experienced by the army: Typhoid Fever, Malarial Remittent Fever, and Typho-malarial Fever. The last named is a combination of elements from the first two diseases. This combination, Typho-malarial Fever, was the characteristic "camp fever" during the Civil War. Symptoms included: a pronounced chill followed by an intermittent fever, abdominal tenderness and nausea, general debility, diarrhea, retention of urine, and furring of the tongue. Typhus castrensis in Latin. [CivilWarMed]


Formerly, any malignant growth, esp. one attended with great pain and ulceration, with cachexia and progressive emaciation. It was so called, perhaps, from the great veins which surround it, compared by the ancients to the claws of a crab. The term is now restricted to such a growth made up of aggregations of epithelial cells, either without support or embedded in the meshes of a trabecular framework. Note: Four kinds of cancers are recognized: (1) {Epithelial cancer, or Epithelioma}, in which there is no trabecular framework. See {Epithelioma}. (2) {Scirrhous cancer, or Hard cancer}, in which the framework predominates, and the tumor is of hard consistence and slow growth. (3) {Encephaloid, Medullary, or Soft cancer}, in which the cellular element predominates, and the tumor is soft, grows rapidly, and often ulcerates. (4) {Colloid cancer}, in which the cancerous structure becomes gelatinous. The last three varieties are also called {carcinoma}. [Webster1913].

Any malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division; it may spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or the blood stream. [Wordnet]

Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health

Example from a 1740 Death Record from England:

Cancrum Oris

Canker of the mouth; a fretted ulceration of the gums. [Hooper1829]

Canker; a fetid ulcer, with jagged edges, of the gums and inside of the lips and cheeks, attended with copious flow of offensive saliva. It occurs pricipally in children. [Hoblyn1855]

A deep, foul, fetid, irregular ulcer inside the lips and cheeks; often attended with the discharge of blood. [Thomas1875]

A fetid ulcer of the gums and cheeks, of gangrenous character, chiefly occurring in children. [Cleaveland1886]

Noma of the oral tissues called also gangrenous stomatitis. [Merriam].

Example from an 1883 death certificate from Pennsylvania:


Infection with a fungus of the genus Candida, especially C. albicans, that usually occurs in the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth, respiratory tract, or vagina but may invade the bloodstream, especially in immunocompromised individuals. Also called candidosis, moniliasis. [Heritage]


A corroding or sloughing ulcer; esp. a spreading gangrenous ulcer or collection of ulcers in or about the mouth; -- called also water canker, canker of the mouth, and noma. [Webster1913]

Example from a 1758 Death Record from England:

Canker of the Mouth

Cancer Aquaticus.

Example from an 1828 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Canker Rash

A form of scarlet fever characterized by ulcerated or putrid sore throat. [Webster]

Canker Sore

A small ulcer crater in the lining of the mouth that is often painful and very sensitive. Also known as an aphthous ulcer. Canker sores are one of the most common problems that occur in the mouth. About 20% of the population has canker sores at any given time. Canker sores typically last for 10-14 days and they heal without leaving a scar. The word "canker" comes from the Latin "cancer" for crab. (In Latin "cancer" was once pronounced kanker from which came canker). Chronic ulcers might seem as hard as a crab shell. [Medicinenet]

Canton Disease

Syphilis. The Chinese called it the Canton disease.


A fever in which the patient has a continual horror and trembling, with an unceasing sounding in his ears. [Hooper1829]


Some authors have called thus indolent tumors different from cancer; others, incipent cancer, and others, again, the species of cancer in which the affected structure assumes the appearance of cerebral substance; but the majority of authors use Carcinoma in the same sense of cancer. [Dunglison 1874].

A malignant new growth made up of epithelial cells tending to infiltrate the surrounding tissues and give rise to metastases. [Dorland].

(Entry from an 1863 Church Record in Münster, Switzerland)

Impaired appetite, with gnawing or burning pain in the stomach or epigatstrium. [Dunglison 1874].
Properly, neuralgia of the stomach, but often applied to various forms of gastric pain and to pyrosis. [Appleton1904]

Obsolete term for pyrosis. [CancerWEB].

Obsolete pain in or near the heart. A technical name for heartburn. [Collins].


A rottenness of the bone. [Buchan1798].

Ulceration of the bones. [Hoblyn1855].

A disease of bones, analogous to ulceration of the soft parts. [Thomas1875].

Ulceration of bone; a process in which bone disintegrates and is carried away piecemeal, as distinguished from necrosis, in which it dies in masses. [Dorland].

"Spinal Caries, Psoas Abscess" Example from an 1892 Death Certificate from Australia:

Caries Sicca

Bony destruction such as that caused by infection with syphilis. [Taber's Online Dictionary].

(Entry from an 1940 Death Certificate)

Castilian Disease

Syphilis. The Portuguese called it the Castilian disease.


A trancelike state with loss of voluntary motion and failure to react to stimuli. [Wordnet]


A sudden loss of muscle tone and strength, usually caused by an extreme emotional stimulus. [Heritage]


Clouding of the lens of the eye. In people with diabetes, this condition is sometimes referred to as "sugar cataract." [HyperBiology]


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. Note: In America, the term catarrh is applied especially to a chronic inflammation of, and hyper secretion from, the membranes of the nose or air passages; in England, to an acute influenza, resulting in a cold, and attended with cough, thirst, lassitude, and watery eyes; also, to the cold itself. [Webster1913].

Inflammation of mucous membranes, especially of the nose and throat. [Heritage].

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

Example from a Civil War Hospital Record:


Coryza. A catarrh. An increased secretion of mucus from the membranes, fauces, and bronchia, with fever, and attended with sneezing, cough, thirst, lassitude, and want of appetite. There are two species of catarrh viz. catarrhus a frigore which is very common, and is called a cold in the head; and catarrhus a contagio, the influenza, or epidemic catarrh, which sometimes seizes a whole city. Catarrh is also symptomatic of several other diseases. Hence we have the catarrhus rubeolosus; tussis, variolosa, verminosa, calculosa, phthisica, hysterica, a dentione, gravidarum, &c. [Hooper1829].

Autumnal Catarrh

An affection of the mucous membrane of the eyes, nose, and upper-air passages, characterized by coryza, laryngeal irritation, and asthma, and occurring during the summer months, usually August and September, and disappearing with the first heavy frost. [Thomas1907]

Catarrhal Fever

A fever, either typhoid, nervous, or synochal, attended with symptoms of catarrh. [Hooper1843].

Old term for the group of respiratory tract diseases including the common cold, influenza, and lobular and lobar pneumonia. [CancerWEB].

Example from an 1859 death certificate from West Virginia:

Epidemic Catarrh


Pulmonary Catarrh


Suffocative Catarrh

Under this term Ettmüller described a disease corresponding to croup. It is now restricted to capillary bronchitis. [Hoblyn1900].

A severe laryngitis or bronchitis producing symptoms of suffocation. [Appleton1904]

Summer Catarrh

Hay Fever

Cauliflower Excrescence

A disease of the os uteri; supposed by Gooch to be encephalesis. [Hoblyn1855]

An excrescence, which appears about the origin of the mucous membranes, chiefly about the anus and vulva, and which resembles, in appearance, the head of the cauliflower. It is often syphilitic in its character. [Dunglison1874]


Ethmyphitis. [Dunglison1874].


Ethmyphitis. A diseased condition of the subcutaneous areolar tissue and connective tissue, presenting œdema, swelling, hardness, bogginess, fluctuation, suppuration, and sometimes sloughing. It is usually preceded by a wound, such as the bite of an animal, or an infected lesion of some sort. A dissection wound is a common type. The pain is severe, and there are generally somewhat grave constitutional symptoms, as fever, severe headache,  nausea, prostration, loss of appetite, and general weakness. Salines, iron, and sometimes stimulants are useful, with incisions to relieve tension or to let out the products of suppuration. [New International Encyclopedia 1904]


An inflammation of the cellular or areolar tissue, esp. of

that lying immediately beneath the skin. [Webster1913]

Cellulitis is a spreading infection of connective tissues, usually caused by streptococci bacteria. [Biology Dictionary]

An inflammation of body tissue (especially that below the skin) characterized by fever and swelling and redness and pain. [Wordnet]


Congestion, active or passive, of the brain. [CancerWEB]

Cephalgia / Cephalalgia



Inflammation of the brain. Encephalitis. [Dunglison1868]

Cerebral Softening

In medicine, Cerebral softening (encephalomalacia) is a localized softening of the brain substance, due to hemorrhage or inflammation. Three varieties, distinguished by their colour and representing different stages of the morbid process, are known respectively as red, yellow, and white softening. [Wikipedia].

Cerebral Softening

In medicine, Cerebral softening (encephalomalacia) is a localized softening of the brain substance, due to hemorrhage or inflammation. Three varieties, distinguished by their colour and representing different stages of the morbid process, are known respectively as red, yellow, and white softening. [Wikipedia].

Example from an 1882 death certificate from England:


Inflammation of the cerebrum.

Example from a 1912 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Cerebro-Spinal Fever

A dangerous epidemic, and endemic, febrile disease, characterized by inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord, giving rise to severe headaches, tenderness of the back of the neck, paralysis of the ocular muscles, etc. It is sometimes marked by a cutaneous eruption, when it is often called spotted fever. It is not contagious. Meningitis. [Webster]

Example from an 1891 death certificate from West Virginia:

Cesspool Fever

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

Chagres Fever

A form of malarial fever occurring along the Chagres River, Panama. [Webster]


A chalklike concretion, consisting mainly of urate of sodium, found in and about the small joints, in the external ear, and in other situations, in hose affected with gout; a tophus. [Webster1913]


A sore or ulcer arising from the direct application of the syphilitic poison. [Thomas1875]

A venereal sore or ulcer; specifically, the initial lesion of true syphilis, whether forming a distinct ulcer or not; -- called also hard chancre, indurated chancre, and Hunterian chancre. [Webster]


A soft, highly infectious, nonsyphilitic venereal ulcer of the genital region caused by the bacillus Hemophilus ducreyi. Also called soft chancre. [Heritage]

Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health

Change 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]

The period in the life of a woman when menstruation and the capacity for conception cease, usually occurring between forty-five and fifty years of age. [Webster].

Example from an 1869 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Chappa The name among the Popo people in the colony Lagos for a disease believed to be neither tuberculosis nor syphilitic, marked by severe initial pains in muscles and joints, followed by swelling and formation of round multiple nodules the size of a pigeon's egg; without forming abscesses these are exposed by ulceration of the skin. The disease finally attacks the bones. [Gould1916]



Chicken breast

Pigeon Breast

Chicken Pox

A popular name of a species of varicella. [Hoblyn1855]
A mild, eruptive disease, generally attacking children only; varicella. [Webster1913].
An acute contagious disease, primarily of children, that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and characterized by skin eruptions, slight fever, and malaise. Also called varicella. [Heritage]
Fact sheet from CDC
Information Card from the CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health

Example from a 1790 Death Record from England:

Example from an 1867 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1905 death certificate from Illinois:


A skin infestation, common in the southern United States, caused by the larva of the red mite (harvest mite). Features include an itchy red rash to the waist, ankle and skin folds. No specific treatment is necessary as the rash will resolve spontaneously. Antihistamines can be used to control itching. [CancerWEB]


A kibe or Pernio. Chilblains are painful inflammatory swellings, of a deep purple or leaden colour, to which the fingers, toes, heels, and other extreme parts of the body are subject, on being exposed to a severe degree of cold. [Hooper1829]

An erythematous inflammation of the feet, hands, etc. occasioned by cold. It is very common in youth. It is apt to degenerate into painful, indolent ulcerations, called Kibes, see Mules. [Dunglison1874]

An inflammation followed by itchy irritation on the hands, feet, or ears, resulting from exposure to moist cold. [American Heritage]

No, chilblains (pernio) is not the same as frostbite. Chilblains is inflammation of the small blood vessels in the skin in response to cold but above-freezing temperatures. This results in red, swollen skin — usually on the face, ears, fingers and toes — which appears several hours after exposure to cold. You may also experience an itchy, burning sensation in the affected skin. Sometimes chilblains progresses to blisters and even open sores. [Mayoclinic]


The crowing noise made by children affected with spasm of the laryngeal muscles; false croup. Spasmodic Croup. [Webster]


Chills & Fever

Chills & Fever

Malarial Fever

Chin Cough

Pertussis, Whooping cough.

Chinese Disease

Syphilis. The Japanese called it either the Portuguese or Chinese disease.


Gout in the hand.


A patchy brown or dark brown skin discoloration that usually occurs on a woman's faces and may result from hormonal changes, as in pregnancy. [Heritage]


A form of anemia observed mostly in pubescent girls in whom menstruation has not become regularly established, and occasionally in boys at about the period of puberty. The liquor sanguine is redundant and the blood corpuscles are decreased in number; anemic murmurs are audible in the large superficial veins, and the action of the heart may be irregular and excessive; the complexion becomes very pale and subsequently greenish; the appetite is defective or depraved; the tissues are flabby; and there is a general feeling of lassitude and despondency. There may be headache, vertigo, disorders of sensibility, and affections of various mucous membranes. [Appleton1904].

A form of primary anemia affecting mostly girls at the period of puberty or early womanhood, and characterized by a marked deficiency of hemoglobin in the red corpuscles; Green Sickness. [CancerWEB].

Entry from an 1852 Church Record in Münster, Switzerland


Cynanche Trachealis


The Croup (from the west coast of Scotland)

Chocolate Cyst

Cyst of the ovary with intracavitary hemorrhage and formation of a haematoma containing old brown blood; often seen with endometriosis of the ovary but occasionally with other types of cyst's. [CancerWEB]

Choix Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever


Inflammation of one or more bile ducts. Also called angiocholitis. [Merriam-Webster].

Example from a 1911 Death Certificate from Ohio


Inflammation of one or more bile ducts. Also called angiocholitis. [Merriam-Webster]


Inflammation of the gall bladder, due to bacterial infection or the presence of gallstones. [Collins]

Example from a 1929 Death Certificate from Canada


The presence or formation of gallstones in the gallbladder or bile ducts. [Heritage]

Any disease characterized by repeated simultaneous purging and vomiting, with painful spasms of the stomach and bowels and occasional cramps of the external muscles; as commonly used, Asiatic cholera. [Appleton1904].
A malignant and rapidly fatal disease, originating in Asia and frequently epidemic in the more filthy sections of other lands, to which the germ or specific poison may have been carried. It is characterized by diarrhea, rice-water evacuations, vomiting, cramps, pinched expression, and lividity, rapidly passing into a state of collapse, followed by death, or by a stage of reaction of fever. [Webster].
"cholera" was first used: 14th century. [Webster].
Fact sheet from CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health
Fact sheet from WHO

Example from an 1828 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Example from an 1850 Mortality Schedule from Chicago:

Algid Cholera

Asiatic Cholera. [Cruveilhier on Cholera, 1833].

The most violent grade of cholera presents in two forms. In the first the patient is of a blue colour, as in cyanosis or in asphyxia from carbonic acid gas; in the second the patient does not exhibit that colour. The first form usually proves fatal in a very short time, and has been termed blue cholera, cholera asphyxia, and algid cholera. [The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, Sweet, 1833].

Algid: chilly; "a person who is algid is marked by prostration and has cold clammy skin and low blood pressure" [Wordnet]

Asiatic Cholera

A remarkable epidemic disease, consisting in the malignant form of cholera, in which all of the symptoms are much more severe and rapid in their prograss to a too generally fatal issue. [Thomas1875]

An acute infectious disease indigenous to India, characterized by vomiting and purging; the discharges resembling rice water; by painful cramps; and by the early occurrence of collapse with suppression of urine and a peculiar coldness of breadth. [Appleton1904]

Cholera Asphyxia

Asiatic Cholera. [Cruveilhier on Cholera, 1833].

The most violent grade of cholera presents in two forms. In the first the patient is of a blue colour, as in cyanosis or in asphyxia from carbonic acid gas; in the second the patient does not exhibit that colour. The first form usually proves fatal in a very short time, and has been termed blue cholera, cholera asphyxia, and algid cholera. [The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, Sweet, 1833].

Example from an 1854 Physician's Certificate from Pennsylvania

Cholera Biliosa The vomiting and purging frequent and copious, with a redundance of bile. European Cholera. [The Study of Medicine. Good, 1864]

Bilious Cholera

Copious and frequent vomiting, at first of the alimentary and fecal matters, with redundancy of bile, and spasms of the legs and thighs. This is nothing more than a form or variety of European Cholera. [Thomas1875]

A form of simple cholera characterized by purging, vomiting of bile, and spasms of the lower extremities. Regarded as real or Asiatic cholera if it occurred during an epidemic of the latter. [Appleton1904].

Blue Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Cruveilhier on Cholera, 1833].

The most violent grade of cholera presents in two forms. In the first the patient is of a blue colour, as in cyanosis or in asphyxia from carbonic acid gas; in the second the patient does not exhibit that colour. The first form usually proves fatal in a very short time, and has been termed blue cholera, cholera asphyxia, and algid cholera. [The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, Sweet, 1833].

British Cholera

Simple Cholera.

Convulsive Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].
Eastern Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].

Epidemic Cholera

Epidemic cholera is an acute general disease, which prevails epidemically, and in certain localities is endemic. It is characterized by copious watery discharges from alimentary canal, by cramps, and by suppression of the excretions. It has also received the names of cholera Asiatica, cholera asphyxia, and epidemic, malignant, algid, or blue cholera. [A text-book of practical medicine, 1892]

Cholera Epidemica Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].

European Cholera

A name given to cholera as it usually appears in Europe when not epidemic, to distinguish it from the epidemic and malignant form of the disease known as Asiatic Cholera. [Thomas1875].

Cholera Flatulenta The vomiting and purging rare, or absent; great and oppressive flatulence; retching; flatulent dejections and eructions. Cholera Sicca. [The Study of Medicine. Good, 1864]

Indian Cholera

Asiatic Cholera.

Cholera Indica Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].

Cholera Infantum

Summer complaint. A disease of infants; indigenous to the United States; prevalent during hot weather in most of the towns of the middle and southern, and many of the western States; ordinarily characterized by excessive irritability of stomach, with purging, the stools being thin and colorless, or of various hues of green and pink, but never yellow, except at the onset or during convalescences; fever of an obscurely remittent character; rapid emaciation; cold feet and hands, with preternatural heat of head and abdomen; dry, harsh and wilted skin; excessive thirst; and in the latter stages somnolency, the patient sleeping with his eyes half open; coma; the case terminating often with convulsions. [Hoblyn1855].

A disease that occurs, generally, in the Middle States of the Union, in June or July, and continues during hot weather; hence called the 'summer complaint'. The chief symptoms are vomiting, purging of green or yellow matter, slime, or blood, attended with pain or uneasiness, and swelling of the abdomen, with some pyrexia, generally. Differs little from what is vulgarly called the Watery Gripes in England. [Dunglison1874].

Choleric fever of infants, cholera of infants; a disease occurring during the hot weather, hence called the "summer complaint." Chief symptoms are vomiting, purging of green or yellow matter, mucus, or blood, attended with pain and uneasiness, and swelling of the abdomen, with some pyrexia, generally. The heat of the weather seems to be the predisposing cause. A microorganism has been discovered in the stools which seems to be identical with Shiga's dysentery bacillus. It is a very fatal disease in towns, differing little, if at all, from what is vulgarly called the "watery gripes" in England. [Dunglison 1903].

A dangerous summer disease, of infants, caused by hot weather, bad air, or poor milk, and especially fatal in large cities. [Webster].

Often fatal form of gastroenteritis occurring in children; not true cholera but having similar symptoms. [Wordnet].

Example from an 1866 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Cholera Maligna

Asiatic Cholera.

Malignant Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Cruveilhier on Cholera, 1833]

Cholera Morbus

A common name of non-epidemic cholera. [Thomas1875].

A popular term for severe acute gastroenteritis accompanied by vomiting, purging and colic; it occurs in the hot months, and is believed to be frequently a manifestation of food poisoning. [Dunglison 1903].

A disease characterized by vomiting and purging, with gripings and cramps, usually caused by imprudence in diet or by gastrointestinal disturbance. Simple cholera. [Webster].

Example from an 1856 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1931 death certificate from Texas:

Nervous Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].

Cholera Nostras

Bilious or sporadic cholera. [Dunglison 1903].

Oriental Cholera Epidemic Cholera.
Cholera Orientalis Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].
Cholera Pestifera Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].
Pestilential Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].
Cholera Serosa Asiatic Cholera. [Dunglison 1903].
Serous Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Cruveilhier on Cholera, 1833]

Cholera Sicca

Pneumatosis of the digestive passages, in which there is copious discharge of gas upward and downward. [Dunglison 1903].

An old term for a malignant form of disease seen during epidemics of Asiatic cholera in which death occurs without diarrhea. [CancerWEB].

Simple Cholera

A disease most common in hot climates, at the close of summer or early autumn. Characterized by an acute catarrhal inflammation of the stomach which extends into the intestines. It generally begins with pain in the bowels, nausea and vomiting, and cramps in the extremities, followed by severe watery diarrhea. [Appleton1904].

Spasmodic Cholera Asiatic Cholera. [Cruveilhier on Cholera, 1833]
Cholera Spasmodica Burning pain in the epigastric region; the dejections watery; ineffectual retchings, or vomitings of a whitish fluid. [The Study of Medicine. Good, 1864]
Sporadic Cholera Cholera Morbus. [Cruveilhier on Cholera, 1833]
Wind Cholera The vomiting and purging rare, or absent; great and oppressive flatulence; retching; flatulent dejections and eructions. Cholera Sicca [The Study of Medicine. Good, 1864]

Winter Cholera

Intestinal Flux; Cholera form Diarrhea; Winter Diarrhea. [Diarrheal Disease, Gant, 1915].

Is a name of a mild diarrheal disease in this country. It is of unknown etiology, but has nothing to do with true cholera. Most outbreaks seem to be water-borne. [Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, Rosenau, 1921].

Example from an 1897Death Record from Michigan


Choleric diarrhea, a diarrhea prevailing during cholera epidemics; first stage of epidemic cholera; precursory symptoms of cholera; mild form of cholera. [Dunglison 1903].

Entry from an 1874 Church Record in Münster, Switzerland:


St. Vitus's dance; a disease attended with convulsive twitching and other involuntary movements of the muscles or limbs. [Webster1913].

Any of various disorders of the nervous system marked by involuntary, jerky movements, especially of the arms, legs, and face, and by incoordination. [Heritage].

Example from a 1927 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:

Huntington Chorea

Huntington disease a rare hereditary disease characterized by quick involuntary movements, speech disturbances, and mental deterioration due to degenerative changes in the cerebral cortex and basal ganglia; it appears in adulthood, usually between the ages of 30 and 45. [Dorland].

Chorea Insaniens

Maniacal chorea; a grave form of chorea usually seen in women, and associated with mania, and usually ending fatally. It may develop during pregnancy. [Gould 1910].

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

Sydenham Chorea

An acute neurologic disorder that emerges several months following a streptococcal ("strep") infection, most frequently in children between the age of 5 and 15. There may be a history of a strep throat or a strep skin infection. There may similarly be a history of another sequel of a strep infection such as scarlet fever, glomerulonephritis or, especially, rheumatic fever. The body movements, called chorea, in Sydenham disease are typically twisting. They are involuntary (not on purpose) and may involve jumping and dancing. They can become quite severe and interfere with normal walking and normal use of the arms as well as talking. The chorea tends especially to involve the distal limbs (the forearms and hands and the lower legs and feet) and is associated with hypotonia (decreased muscle tone) and emotional lability. Improvement usually occurs over a period of weeks or months but exacerbation (worsening) may occur without the recurrence of the strep infection. Sydenham's chorea can be treated with drugs. Sydenham chorea was also called St. Vitus dance. [MedicineNet].

A disorder of the central nervous system that is a manifestation of rheumatic fever; it is usually self-limited and seen in children between 5 and 15 years old, and sometimes in pregnant women. It is characterized by involuntary, irregular, jerky movements of the voluntary muscles, ranging from mild to severe; these often begin as awkwardness and uncontrollable facial grimaces that can cause the child considerable embarrassment. Emotional instability and extreme nervousness usually accompany the physical symptoms. [Dorland].


A child which died within a month after its baptism; -- so called from the chrisom cloth which was used as a shroud for it. [Webster]

Christian Disease

Syphilis. The Turks called it the Christian disease.

Chthonophagia A disease not uncommon among the negroes of the South, accompanied by a strong desire to eat dirt or earthy matter. [Thomas1875]


A morbid condition in which the urine contains chyle or fatty matter, giving it a milky appearance. [Heritage]




A condition produced by the excessive or long-continued use of quinine, and marked by deafness, roaring in the ears, vertigo, etc. [Webster]

The Clap

The vulgar name of a venereal infection. [Hoblyn1855]

Popular name for gonorrhea. [Dorland]


Gout of the abdomen.


A word, which properly signifies 'by degrees.' It has been applied to certain times of life, regarded to be critical; but is now chiefly applied to certain periods of life, at which great changes occur, independently of any numerical estimate of years. Such are the period of puberty in both sexes; that of the cessation of the menses in women, etc. [Dunglison1868]

Climacteric years: are, according to some, all those in the life of man which are multiples of  the number 7. Others have applied the term to years, resulting from the multiplication of 7 by an odd number. Some have admitted only three climacterics; others, again, have extended them to multiples of 9. Most, however, have considered the 63rd year to be the Grand Climacteric; 63 being the product of multiplication of 7 and 9, and all have thought that the period of three, seven, or nine, which they respectively adopted, was necessary to the entire renewal of the body; so that there was, at these times, in the economy, none of the parts of which it had previously consisted. All the notions on the subject are essentially allied to the doctrine of numbers of Pythagoras. [Dunglison1874]

The term "climacteric" comes from the Greek word for rung of a ladder and refers to the period of passage out of the reproductive stage of life and into the nonreproductive phase. In women, it encompasses perimenopause, menopause, and the early postmenopausal years. The climacteric can be accompanied by wide-ranging symptoms that are quite bothersome. However, physicians who understand the hormonal symptoms, who can differentiate these symptoms from age-related changes, and who are familiar with hormone replacement therapies, alternative therapies, and effective life-style modifications can help their patients gain relief. (

Example from an 1840 death certificate from England:

Example from an 1865 death certificate from England:

Climacteric Disease

This term has been applied to a sudden and general alteration of health, occurring at a certain period of life, and of uncertain duration. [Hoblyn1855]

Coffee-Grounds Vomit

Vomit with semi digested blood.

Coeliac Passion



A catarrhal disorder of the upper respiratory tract, which may be viral, a mixed infection, or an allergic reaction. It is marked by acute rhinitis, a slight rise in temperature, and chilly sensations. [Dorland]


A catarrhal disorder of the upper respiratory tract, which may be viral, a mixed infection, or an allergic reaction. It is marked by acute rhinitis, a slight rise in temperature, and chilly sensations. [Dorland]

Example from a 1779 Death Record from England:

Cold Fever

An outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis in the spring of 1814 in Maine. Also called spotted fever. [History and Description of an Epidemic Fever, Commonly Called Spotted Fever, Which Prevailed at Gardiner, Maine, in the Spring of 1814. Author: HALE, E]

Colic / Colica

Colic signifies an affection or pain in the colon. But it is employed in a more extensive signification. It includes every acute pain in the abdomen, aggravated at intervals. The word has often, however, epithets affixed to it, which render it more or less precise. [Dunglison1868].

Severe abdominal pain caused by spasm, obstruction, or distention of any of the hollow viscera, such as the intestines. Often a condition of early infancy, colic is marked by chronic irritability and crying. [Dorland].

 "colic" was first used: sometime around 1421. [Webster]

Example from a 1740 Death Record from England:

Example from an 1885 Death Record from Michigan:

Arthritic Colic

Colic due to gout. [Appleton1904]

Bilious Colic

Colic from excess of bile. [Hooper1829]

Colic dependent on some morbid condition of the liver or the passage of a gallstone. [Appleton1904]

Colic, occasioned with an accumulation of bile in the intestines or in its own passages. [Dunglison1874].

Example from an 1853 death certificate from West Virginia:

Cramp Colic

Enteralgia. An acute, paroxysmal pain in the region of the umbilicus, slightly relieved by pressure, due to an irritation of the sensory nerves, with spasmodic contraction of the intestinal muscle, and not accompanied by fever. Also called: Intestinal colic, tormina, intestinal neuralgia. [Stewart1898]

Example from an 1869 death certificate from West Virginia:

Hepatic Colic

The severe pain produced by the passage of a gallstone from the liver or gall bladder through the bile duct. [Webster]

Menstrual Colic

Intermittent cramp-like lower abdominal pains associated with menstruation. [CancerWEB]

Intestinal Colic

Pain due to distention of the intestines by gas. [Webster1913]

Renal Colic

The severe pain produced by the passage of a calculus from the kidney through the ureter. [Webster]

Uterine Colic

Painful cramps of the uterine muscle sometimes occurring at the menstrual period, or in association with uterine disease. [CancerWEB]

Wind Colic

Intestinal Colic


Inflammation of the colon.

Mucous Colitis

Endocolitis. Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the colon. [Dunglison1868].

Example from a 1916 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Ulcerative Colitis

A serious chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine and rectum characterized by recurrent episodes of abdominal pain and fever and chills and profuse diarrhea. [Wordnet]


Bilious Dysentery


Coloid cancer. Has the appearance of particles of jelly inlaid in a regular alveolar bed. The jelly-like matter is exceedingly soft; a colloid mass is, however, firm and resisting. [Dunglison 1874]

Colonial Fever

It is held by many that we have a fever peculiar to the colonies, a fever, sui generis, quite distinct from that of typhoid. This colonial fever, as it has been termed, is a continued fever, possessing no characteristic clinical features, but resembling, perhaps, a mild case of enteric fever more than anything else. It must be admitted that cases of this kind are met with, of a continued fever, which is chiefly marked by the indefiniteness of its symptoms. Some of these cases are seen also forming a sort of connecting link between this so-called colonial, and true enteric fever. In this last series, perhaps, one symptom only peculiar to typhoid fever stands out, it may be profuse diarrhea, a well-marked cutaneous eruption, or other abdominal symptom. Yet when a case of either series terminates fatally, in the post mortem room we almost constantly observe the intestinal lesions so characteristic of typhoid fever. Arguing upon this fact it is fair to assume that all these cases of what are known as colonial fever, are nothing more than cases of enteric fever. [Austalasia Medical Gazette 1884].

Colorado Fever

Dengue Fever


A state of deep often prolonged unconsciousness, usually the result of injury, disease, or poison, in which an individual is incapable of sensing or responding to external stimuli and internal needs. [Heritage]

Coma Vigil

Subacute or chronic state of altered consciousness, in which the patient appears alert intermittently, but is not responsive, although his/her descending motor pathways appear intact; due to lesions of various cerebral structures. [CancerWEB]

Common Cold



A concussion, a violent shaking or the shock which results from it.  [CancerWEB]


A bodily disorder or disease; a malady or ailment. [Heritage]

Bowel Complaint


Compression of Brain

This may arise either from coagula of blood, a soft tumor, a bony excrescence, a depressed portion of the skull, or the presence of some foreign body. [Dunglison1868]


Injury to the brain caused by a blow; usually resulting in loss of consciousness. [Wordnet]


A collection of blood or other fluid; thus we say a congestion of blood in the vessels, when they are over distended, and the motion is slow. [Hooper1829]

Over fullness of the capillary and other blood vessels, etc., in any locality or organ (often producing other morbid symptoms); local hyperemia, active or passive; as, arterial congestion; venous congestion; congestion of the lungs. [Webster1913].

The presence of an abnormal amount of fluid in a vessel or organ; especially excessive accumulation of blood, due either to increased afflux or to obstruction of return flow. [Heritage].

Example from an 1898 Cemetery record from Maine:

Congestion of the Bowels


Congestion of the Brain


Example from an 1876 death certificate from Australia:

Congestion of the Lungs


Example from an 1858 Death Certificate from Scotland:

Congestion of the Stomach


Example from a 1915 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Congestive Chills

Malarial Fever.

Example from a 1922 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Congestive Fever

Fever accompanied by obscure symptoms; or by great oppression and depression; in which it is difficult - and often impossible - to induce reaction. Congestive fevers occur in various parts of this country, especially in the fall; and they are very common in India. The term congestive fever is often used in some parts of the south of the United States very indefinitely, - to include winter typhus, and typhoid fevers, typhoid pneumonia, as well as intermittents and autumnal remittents. [Dunglison1874]

Cerebro-Spinal Fever. [A Treatise on the Continued Fevers, Wilson, 1881].

Congestions fieber - Example from a death record book from a German church in Indiana. Fieber is the German word for Fever:


Inflammation of the conjunctiva characterized by redness and often accompanied by a discharge. [Heritage]


Infrequent or difficult evacuation of the feces. [Dorland]

Constipation of the Bowels


Constitution, Weak

When a man is commonly laboring under, or unusually susceptible of, disease. [Dunglison1868]


A consumption is a wasting or decay of the whole body from an ulcer, tubercles, or concretions of the lungs, an empyema, a nervous atrophy, or a cachexy. [Buchan1785].

Wasting of the body; phthisis, or marasmus. [Hoblyn1855]

Any wasting away of the body, but usually applied to Phthisis Pulmonalis. [Thomas1875].

A progressive wasting away of the body; esp., that form of wasting, attendant upon pulmonary phthisis and associated with cough, spitting of blood, hectic fever, etc.; pulmonary phthisis; -- called also {pulmonary consumption}. [Webster1913].

Consumption is an archaic name for Tuberculosis. (TB seemed to consume people from within with its symptoms of bloody cough, fever, pallor, and long relentless wasting). [Wikipedia].

Example from a 1734 London, England Death Record:

Example from an 1898 Cemetery record from Maine:

Example from an 1862 Death Register from Scotland:

Consumption of the Bowels


Consumption of the Brochial

Bronchial Phthisis

Galloping Consumption

Phthisis pulmonalis, which rapidly runs through its course to a fatal termination. [Dunglison1868]

Consumption of the Liver

Inflammation and ulceration of the liver from tubercular disease. [Webster1913]

Consumption of the Lungs

Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Nervous Consumption

A nervous consumption is a wasting or decay of the whole body, without any considerable degree of fever, cough, or difficulty of breathing. It is attended with indigestion, weakness, and want of appetite, &c. [Buchan1785]

Pulmonary Consumption

A disease which in most northern temperate climates causes more deaths than any other. Its usual symptoms are cough, emaciation, debility, and hectic fever, generally accompanied with purulent expectoration. In the latter stages of this formidable malady, there is little hope of successful treatment. The aim of the physician should, therefore be to prevent the development of its worst symptoms, by timely precautions, namely, by a careful attention to proper clothing, by a judicious employment of external irritation, by the use of a mild but nutritious and strengthening diet, and, above all, by maintaining the tone of the system by means of suitable exercise in the fresh and open air. When the strength of the patient is such as to admit of it, gentle exercise on horseback is especially to be recommended. Although a mild, dry atmosphere is always desirable, extensive observation has proved that the patient loses more by confinement to the house, than by a regular exposure (with proper precautions as to clothing, etc.) to all kinds of weather, except the very most inclement. [Thomas1875]

Pulmonary Tuberculosis. [Dorland]

Example from an 1806 Death Certificate:

Quick Consumption

Galloping Consumption.

Example from an 1882 Death Record from Michigan

Rapid Consumption

Galloping Consumption.

Example from an 1856 Death Certificate from England

Consumption of the Spinal Cord

Locomotor Ataxia, Tabes Dorsalis.

Consumption of the Throat


Contagion / Contagio

The communication of disease from one individual to another. [Dorland]

Contagious Disease


Continued Fever

By a continual fever is meant that which never leaves the patient during the whole course of the disease, or which shows no remarkable increase or abatement in the symptoms. This kind of fever is likewise divided into acute, slow, and malignant. The fever is called acute when its progress is quick, and the symptoms violent; but when these are more gentle, it is generally denominated slow. When livid or petechial spots show a putrid state of the humours, the fever is called malignant, putrid, or petechial. [Buchan1785].

A fever which presents no interruption in its course. [Dunglison1855].

Obsolete term for fever without the intermittency of malaria; many cases were likely typhoid fever. [CivilWarMed]

Contusion / Contusio

An injury in which the skin is not broken; a bruise. [Heritage]

Convulsions / Convult

Though more children are said to die of convulsions than of any other disease, yet they are for the most part only a symptom of some other malady. Whatever greatly irritates or stimulates the nerves, may occasion convulsions. Hence infants whose nerves are easily affected, are often thrown into convulsions by any thing that irritates the alimentary canal; likewise by teething; strait clothes; the approach of the small-pox, measles, or other eruptive diseases. [Buchan1785].

A paroxysm of involuntary and more or less violent muscular contractions, especially of the voluntary muscles in general, as distinguished from spasm, which is more commonly applied to such contractions of the muscles of a particular portion of the body. [Appleton1904].

A violent involuntary contraction or series of contractions of the voluntary muscles. [CancerWEB].

A sudden attack usually characterized by loss of consciousness and sustained or rhythmic contractions of some or all voluntary muscles. Convulsions are most often a manifestation of a seizure disorder (epilepsy). [HyperMedical].

Example from a 1758 Death Record from England:

Example from an 1893 death certificate from England:

External Convulsions


Internal Convulsions

Spasm of the Glottis.

Example from an 1886 death certificate from Illinois:

Inward Convulsions

Inward - pertaining to the inside of the body: inward convulsions. [Random House].

Example from an 1898 death record from Pennsylvania:




Involuntary utterances of vulgar or obscene words; seen in Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome. [CancerWEB]


Eating of excrement. [CancerWEB]


Influenza, Pertussis


The word is used at times in a vague manner for a state of puriform, putrid, or other breaking down of parts or humours. [Dunglison1868]



Acute Coryza

Rhinitis, Acute


Constipation. An unnatural retention of the fecal matter of the bowels. [Webster]


Variola Minor


Sudden expulsion of air from the lungs that clears the air passages; a common symptom of upper respiratory infection or bronchitis or pneumonia or tuberculosis. [Wordnet]



Country Fever

A modification of Bilious and Malarial fevers. [Neill1866].

Courap A form of impetigo peculiar to India. [Thomas1875]
Courses A popular English term for menses. [Thomas1875]


Gout in the hip; neuralgia femoropoplites.


Hip joint disease.


Inflammation of the hip joint.

Coxsackie Viral Infection

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease [NYHealth]


Slang. Infestation by crab lice. Pediculosis. [Heritage]


A name in the West Indies for a kind of ulcer on the soles of the feet, with edges so hard, that they are difficult to cut. [Dunglison1868]

Cradle Cap

A form of dermatitis that occurs in infants and is characterized by heavy yellow crusted lesions on the scalp. [Heritage]


A sudden, involuntary, spasmodic muscular contraction causing severe pain, often occurring in the leg or shoulder as the result of strain or chill. [Heritage]

Stomach Cramps

A sudden, violent, and most painful affection of the stomach, with the sense of constriction in the epigastrium. [Dunglison1868]

Creeping Sickness The name by which the gangrenous form of Ergotism is known in Germany: kriebelkrankheit. [Thomas1875]


An endemic disease common in Switzerland and other mountainous countries, characterized by goiter, stinted growth, swelled abdomen, wrinkled skin, wan complexion, vacant and stupid countenance, misshapen cranium, idiocy, and comparative insensibility. [Thomas1875]

A form of idiocy accompanied by deformity of bodily organs, very frequently associated with goiter or Derbyshire neck. [Wilson1893]

Criminal Abortion The murder of a fœtus in utero; fœticide. [Thomas1875]


A venereal disease. [Farmer1905].

Critical Age Change of Life. 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]
Croopbacked Humpback. [Dunglison1874]

The Croup

The cynanche trachealis, so called from the crouping noise attending it. This noise is similar to the sound emitted by a chicken affected with the pip, which in some parts of Scotland is called roup, hence, probably, the term croup.

A disease marked by laborious and suffocative breathing, with a stridulus noise, short dry cough, and expiration of a concrete membranous sputum. [Thomas1875]

In the early-nineteenth century it was called cynanche trachealis. Synonyms: roup, hives, choak, stuffing, rising of the lights. A pathological condition of the larynx, especially in infants and children that is characterized by respiratory difficulty and a hoarse, brassy cough. [Thomas1907].

A name formerly given to diseases characterized by distress in breathing accompanied by a metallic cough and some hoarseness of speech. It is now known that these symptoms are often associated with diphtheria, spasmodic laryngitis, and a third disease, spasmodic croup, to which the term is now alone applied. This occurs most frequently in children above two years of age; the child goes to bed quite well, and a few hours later suddenly awakes with great difficulty in inspiration, the chest wall becomes markedly retracted, and there is a metallic cough. The child becomes cyanosed, and, to the inexperienced nurse, seems in an almost moribund condition. In the course of four or five minutes, normal respiration starts again, and the attack is over for the time being; but it may recur several times a day. The seizure may be accompanied by convulsions, and death has occurred from dyspnea. [Britannica1911].

A condition resulting from acute partial obstruction of the upper airway, seen mainly in infants and children; characteristics include resonant barking cough, hoarseness, and persistent stridor. It may be caused by a viral infection, a bacterial infection, an allergy, a foreign body, or new growth. [Dorland].

Example from an 1826 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Example from an 1870 Mortality Schedule from Kentucky:

False Croup

A spasmodic affection of the larynx attended with the symptoms of membranous croup, but unassociated with the deposit of a fibrinous membrane. [Webster1913].

Called also laryngismus stridulus. [Dorland]

Membranous Croup

True croup. [Webster1913]

Croup became a catch-all term for similar diseases that caused a hoarse cough and obstruction of the respiratory passages. It's original meaning also included the formation of a false membrane in the throat. To differentiate the True Croup from others, the terms Cynanche Maligna and Membranous Croup were applied. When the cause of the disease was finally discovered (bacillus Corynebacterium diphtheriae), the disease took on the name: Diphtheria. [Schmidt2007].

Example from an 1892 death certificate from West Virginia:

Example from a 1921 Death Certificate from Georgia:

Spasmodic Croup

An affection of childhood characterized by a stoppage of breathing developed suddenly and without fever, and produced by spasmodic contraction of the vocal cords. It is sometimes fatal. Called also laryngismus stridulus, and childcrowing. [Webster].

Example from a 1915 Death Certificate from Massachusetts:



Crusted Tetter


The Curse

Slang. Menstruation.  [Heritage]


An old name for any acute affection of the throat, as diphtheria, croup, tonsillitis, etc., in which the patient struggles to breath (as a panting dog). [Gould 1910].

Any disease of the tonsils, throat, or windpipe, attended with inflammation, swelling, and difficulty of breathing and swallowing. Dog Choak. [Webster1913].

Cynanche Laryngea

The Croup

Cynanche Maligna

Diphtheria. [Hooper1822]

Putrid sore throat, often an attendant on scarlantina. [Thomas1875].

A fatal form of sore throat. [Gould 1910].

Example from an 1828 death certificate from Pennsylvania:

Cynanche Parotidea

The Mumps

Cynanche Prunella

Common Sore Throat. Prunella.

Cynanche Tonsillaris

Inflammatory Quincy. Tonsillitis

Cynanche Trachealis

The Croup.

Example from an 1828 death certificate from Pennsylvania:


A mania in which the patient believes himself a dog, and imitates the actions of one. [Gould 1910].


An abnormal membranous sac containing a gaseous, liquid, or semisolid substance. [Heritage]


An adenoma containing cysts. [Gould 1910].

Example from a 1928 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:


Inflammation of the urinary bladder.