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English Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms

Fainting Fit


Fall Fever

Autumnal fever

Falling of the Bowels

In this complaint a portion of the bowels protrudes from the anus. It is generally caused by a relaxed state of the body, or debility of the part, piles, drastic purgatives, or violent straining at stool. Children are most subject to this complaint. [Thomas1907]

Falling Sickness


Famine Fever

Typhus, a contagious continued fever lasting from two to three weeks, attended with great prostration and cerebral disorder, and marked by a copious eruption of red spots upon the body. Also called jail fever, famine fever, putrid fever, spotted fever, etc. [Webster]

Relapsing fever, an acute, epidemic, contagious fever, which prevails also endemically in Ireland, Russia, and some other regions. It is marked by one or two remissions of the fever, by articular and muscular pains, and by the presence, during the paroxysm of spiral bacterium in the blood. It is not usually fatal. Called also famine fever, and recurring fever. [Webster]

Fatty Degeneration

The accumulation of fat globules within the cells of a bodily organ, such as the liver or heart, resulting in deterioration of tissue and diminished functioning of the affected organ. [Heritage]

Example from an 18880 death certificate from West Virginia:


Tinea Favosa


A slight transient fever of doubtful etiology, unattended by any characteristic lesions, and terminating in recovery in from twenty-four hours to seven days. [Thomas1907]


Former name for mental retardation. The feebleminded were divided into three grades: idiots, with a mental age below two years; imbeciles, with a mental age between two and seven years; and morons, with a mental age between seven and twelve years. [Dorland]



Feigned Diseases

Morbi ficti, vel simulati. Alleged affections, which are either pretended or intentionally induced, as abdominal tumour, animals in the stomach, &c. The practice of feigning disease is technically termed in the British navy skulking, and in the army malingering. [Hoblyn1865].


Paronychia. [Dunglison1846].

The name of malignant whitlow, in which the effusion presses on the periosteum. [Hoblyn1865].

A soft tissue infection of the finger tip. [CancerWEB]

Fever / Feavour

Fevers are divided into continual, remitting, intermitting, and such as are attended with cutaneous eruption or topical inflammation, as the small-pox, erysipelas, &c. 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. A Remitting fever differs from a continual only in degree. It has frequent increases and decreases, or exacerbations and remissions, but never wholly leaves the patient during the course of the disease. Intermitting fevers, or agues, are those which, during the time that the patient may be said to be ill, have evident intervals or remissions of the symptoms. [Buchan1785].

A rise in body temperature above normal usually as a natural response to infection. Typically an oral temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit constitutes a fever; Pyrexia. [CancerWEB]

Example from a 1734 Death Record from England:

Example from a 1752 Death Record from England:

Fever and Ague

A popular term for intermittent fever. [Dunglison1855].

Example from an 1866 death certificate from West Virginia:

Fever on the Brain

Brain Fever

Fever Nests

The conditions which propagate typhus maladies, in cities especially. [Dunglison1874]

Fever Sore

A carious ulcer or necrosis. --Miner. [Webster].

Example from an 1880 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:

Fever of the Spirits

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

Fifth Disease

A mild viral disease occurring mainly in early childhood, characterized by fever, a rosy-red rash on the cheeks that often spreads to the trunk and limbs, and usually arthritis and malaise. Also called erythema infectiosum. [Heritage]
Fifth of six classic exanthems, or rash-associated diseases, of childhood.
Fact sheet from CDC
Information sheet from NYS Dept of Health

Fire Ship

A wench who has the venereal disease. [Grose1823]

First Disease

Measles. First of six classic exanthems, or rash-associated diseases, of childhood.


Disease caused by the presence of filariae in the tissues of the body, often resulting in occlusion of the lymphatic channels that can lead to elephantiasis. [Heritage].

Filariae: Any of various slender, threadlike nematode worms of the super family Filarioidea that are parasitic in vertebrates and are often transmitted as larvae by mosquitoes and other biting insects. The adult form lives in the blood and lymphatic tissues, causing inflammation and obstruction that can lead to elephantiasis. [Heritage]

Fact sheet from CDC


Forming an abnormal hollow passage from an abscess or cavity to the skin or an organ. [CivilWarMed]

Example from a 1734 Death Record from England:

Fistula in Ano

An abnormal opening on the cutaneous surface near the anus, usually resulting from a local abscess of the crypt and common in Crohn's disease. A perianal fistula may or may not communicate with the rectum. Also called Anal Fistula. [Moseby's Medical Dictionary].

Example from an 1899 death record from Michigan:


Seizures or convulsions, especially caused by epilepsy. [Heritage]

Example from an 1854 death certificate from West Virginia:

Five Day Fever

Trench Fever

Floating Kidney

Nephroptosis: downward displacement of the kidney; called also floating, hypermobile, movable, or wandering kidney. [Dorland].

Movable Kidney: A condition of the kidney, usually congenital, in which the renal vessels are so elongated as to permit the kidney to be moved in certain directions. The tumour, formed by it, and felt on pressure, may readily be mistaken for disease of other parts. [Dunglison1874].

In "floating kidney" and "visceroptosis" the internal organs were thought to have dropped, necessitating treatment by the new art of abdominal surgery. [Ann Dally 1997]

A kidney that is displaced and movable. Also called wandering kidney. [Heritage].

Wandering kidney: a morbid condition in which one kidney, or, rarely, both kidneys, can be moved in certain directions; -- called also floating kidney, movable kidney. [Webster]


Uterine hæmorrhage. It occurs either in the puerperal state, or from disease. [Hoblyn1855]

An abnormal or excessive discharge of blood from the uterus. --Dunglison. [Webster1913]

Flour Albis

("White Flux"), Leucorrhoea. [Thomas1875]


An old English name for hemorrhagic smallpox. [Appleton1904]



Fact sheet from CDC

The French Flu

Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. The Spanish called it the French Flu.

The Spanish Flu

Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.

Example from a 1919 death certificate from New Brunswick, Canada:


Influenza accompanied by pneumonia. [The American thesaurus of slang 1953].


A discharge; another term for diarrhea. [Hoblyn1855]

A discharge, Rhysis. In nosology, it comprises a series of affections, the principal symptom of which is the discharge of fluid. Generally it is employed for dysentery. [Dunglison1874]

Example from a 1740 Death Record from England:

Bilious Flux

A discharge of bile, either by vomiting or by stool, or by both, as in cholera. [Dunglison1868]

Bloody Flux

Dysentery involving a discharge of blood.  [Hooper1822]

Another name for dysentery, from the bloody nature of the intestinal discharge. [Hoblyn1855]

Example from a 1754 Death Record from England:

Example from an 1854 death certificate from West Virginia:

Chronic Flux

Chronic Dysentery

Coeliac Flux

A species of diarrhea, in which the food is discharged by the bowels in an undigested condition; Lientery. [Dunglison1868]

Hepatic Flux

Bilious Flux. The name given in the East to a variety of dysentery, in which there is a frequent flow of bilious fluid from the rectum. [Hoblyn1855]

Putrid Flux

Dysentery. If ulcers form, the evacuations assume a dirty-gray or grayish-red color, and a putrid odor, on account of sloughed mucous membrane, and large quantities of pus discharged from the ulcers becoming mixed with them. In epidemic flux, when pus and pieces of sloughed mucous membrane are ejected, the stools become intensely pungent and putrid, resembling sulphuretted hydrogen. [Vogel1885]

White Flux

Flour Albis
Fœticide The murder of a fœtus in utero; criminal abortion. [Thomas1875]

Forest Yaws

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis

Foul Disease


Example from a 1734 Death Record from England:

Fourteen Day Fever

Epidemic Typhus

Fourth Disease

Duke’s Disease. Fourth of six classic exanthems, or rash-associated diseases, of childhood.




The Yaws, Epian, Pian. A disease of the Antilles and of Africa, characterized by tumors, of a contagious character, which resemble strawberries, raspberries, or champignons; ulcerate, and are accompanied by emaciation. [Dunglison1874]

French Crust


French Disease

The delicate disease, said to have been imported from France. French gout; the same. He suffered by a blow over the snout with a French faggot-stick; i.e. he lost his nose by the pox. [Grose1788]

French Distemper


French Gout

Sometimes gonorrhea, but more generally and correctly syphilis, the Morbus Gallicus of old writers. [Farmer1905].

French Pox

Syphilis. The English called it the French Pox.

Example from a 1734 Death Record from England:



Frog Tongue

Ranula; salivary tumor under the tongue. [Cleaveland1886]

Frost Itch

Pruritus Hiemalis: a dehydrated condition of the skin characterized by erythema, dry scaling, fine cracking, and pruritus, which occurs chiefly during the winter when low humidity in heated rooms causes excessive water loss from the stratum corneum. [Dorland]


Damage to tissues as the result of exposure to low environmental temperatures; called also congelation. [Dorland]

Frozen to Death

To be killed or harmed by cold or frost. [Heritage]

Example from an 1885 Death Record from Michigan:




A morbid growth of granulations in ulcers, commonly termed proud flesh. Granulations are often called fungous when they are too high, large, flabby, and unhealthy. [Hoblyn1865].

A spongy, morbid growth or granulation in animal bodies, as the proud flesh of wounds. [Webster]

Fungus Hæmatodes

Bleeding fungus; soft cancer; medullary sarcoma; spongoid inflammation, &c. In England, it is a form of encephalosis; in France, nævus, morbid erectile tissue, &c. [Hoblyn1865].

Medullary sarcoma; soft cancer; spongoid inflammation; a morbid excrescence of a malignant character, and somewhat similar to the brain. [Harris1882].


A boil, or inflammatory tumor; a blain. [Thomas1875]

A Staphylococcal skin infection which involves a hair follicle, often referred to as a boil or a furuncle. A group of boils is known as a carbuncle.  [CancerWEB]


A small phlegmon, which appears under the form of a conical, hard, circumscribed tumour, having its seat in the dermoid texture. At the end of an uncertain period, it becomes pointed, white or yellow, and gives exit to pus mixed with blood. When it breaks, a small, grayish, fibrous mass sometimes appears, which consists of dead areolar tissue. This is called the core or setfast. [Dunglison1855].

A skin condition characterized by the development of recurring boils. [American Heritage].

Example from a 1919 Death Certificate from Georgia: