Can You Translate These Medical Terms Into Common English?



By: Jennifer Post

6 Min Quiz

Image: Virojt Changyencham/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Most medical terms derive from the Greek language, which is a notoriously difficult one to learn and speak. So it's no wonder that one of the most complicated professions use it on a daily basis. But just because your doctor may use a certain word doesn't mean you understand what it means. Figuring it out can be as simple as asking your doctor for further explanation, or you can try and educate yourself a little bit to become familiar with medical terms and what they mean in more layperson's terms.

Since the medical profession doesn't originate in an English-speaking country, the terminology can sometimes be difficult to translate into simple English terms. The Greek and Roman empires are the ones who brought medicine to the more modern world. The "father of modern medicine" is in fact Hippocrates. If that sounds familiar, it's because all doctors have to take the Hippocratic Oath upon graduation. There's so much history to the medical profession, and while of course these terms can be translated or stated in a more simple way, history itself knows the original terms. If you think you've got what it takes to translate these medical terms into more common language, take our quiz now!

What does the term synchronous diaphragmatic flutter mean in plain English?

Having the hiccups is one of the most annoying things about being a human, but at least we don't refer to them by their formal medical name! Did you know that infants hiccup more than any other humans?


Sternutating really hits during allergy season. What does it mean?

Allergies can certainly bring on sneezing, but so can other sicknesses like the flu. While many people believe it's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open and the reason people say "God bless you" afterward is because your heart skips a beat during a sneeze, neither of these is actually true.


If you're feeling hungry, you will experience borborygmus. But what is that?

While it is commonly associated with hunger, you stomach can make those familiar sounds whether or not the stomach has food in it. It's essential just muscle movement in the stomach and intestines.


If you can't remember what amnesia means, you're not alone. But if you can remember, can you tell us what it is?

Amnesia can be caused by a hit on the head or some other trauma to the brain. Having amnesia isn't always permanent, and doesn't mean that you lose all of your memories. Sometimes you just lose short-term ones.


Anemia looks like a complicated word, but it actually just means which of the below common things?

Lacking red blood cells, or anemia, can cause you to feel low on energy. Did you know that it can actually be hereditary? Babies can be born anemic, but another cause is massive blood loss or some kind of destruction of the red blood cells.


It's good news to get a benign result, but what does it mean?

This term is commonly used when talking about cancer. If a tumor is benign that means it is not cancerous and poses mostly no harm to the patient. Malignant is the opposite of benign.


In order to determine if you're experiencing a harmful attack on the body, a biopsy will be done. What are you getting into with that?

A biopsy is also related to the terms benign and malignant in the sense that one will have a biopsy done to determine if a lump or mass is one of those two things. It's typically a non-invasive procedure, but it depends on the size and location of the mass.


During pregnancy, most women do not hope for a breech baby. Do you know what that term means?

A breech baby makes for a difficult delivery. The most common option is a cesarian section, but some women opt for a natural birth. In that case, the legs or butt is delivered first, followed by the upper body.


If you're deficient in Vitamin D, what does that mean?

A deficiency, depending on what you're lacking, can be an easy fix. Upping supplements and eating more nutrient-rich food can really help. If the deficiency is caused by a more serious disease, further action will be taken.


If you see someone suffering from a myocardial infarction, call 911. But what will you tell them is happening?

The fancy term really just means a heart attack. Common signs that someone is having one is numbness in the left arm and extreme flatulence. It's caused by a blockage in the coronary artery.


If you have rhinorrhoea, you really should get a tissue. What does it mean?

That complicated term really just means you have a runny nose! Why can't they just say that? The word originates from the Greek words for "the nose" and "discharge" or "flow." Again, way easier words they could have used.


Vagotonia has nothing to do with the female body, but it does mean which of the below?

This fancy term is another way of saying nerve pain. But it is a little more complication than that. It means increased activity or influence of the vagus nerve producing a slow heart rate and feeling of faintness.


The abnormality, hyperostosis, means which of the following?

Having hyperostosis can lead to other conditions, like a bone spur. That's basically a new bone that appears on the surface of another bone. Hyperostosis appears in many musculoskeletal disorders.


The word abrasion sounds worse than it is, but it really just means what?

An abrasion is really just like a scrape on the skin. It usually doesn't draw much blood, if any at all, and is a quick fix. Of course, there can be more serious abrasions, but they might use the word contusion at that point.


Bet you can't say glomerulonephritis ten times fast, but can you tell us what it means?

Can you imagine getting a diagnosis back and having it be glomerulonephritis? The first thought is most definitely, what the heck is that?! It's really just slight swelling of the kidney due to an auto-immune response.


Stock up on anti-wrinkle cream if you're experiencing hypotrophy. What is that?

Aging is something that happens to everyone, but it would be much scarier if people referred to it as hypotrophy. Although, it does have the word trophy in it, so maybe aging is actually something we should celebrate.


Transaminase are important to the natural functioning of the human body, but what is it exactly?

Enzymes have many purposes, and most of them are very complicated. But basically, they are crucial to amino acids which form proteins. Measuring these enzymes is a big part of being able to diagnose many diseases.


If you've been prescribed an analgesic, what will purpose does it serve?

You actually don't even need to be prescribed a painkiller unless it's something that is regulated by the government. Ibuprofen can be considered a painkiller, even though it's more of an anti-inflammatory. If your pain is caused by inflammation, it will do the trick.


It's not hard to get an infection, but bactericides are there for you. What are they?

A bactericides can be anything from an antiseptic to an antibiotic. It can even be a disinfectant, like the kind you spray around your house when someone has the stomach flu. Chlorine is a good example.


Having dysphoria can be stressful, but you can relax knowing it really just means what?

Anxiety is so, so common. That's why you won't really hear the complicated technical term for it outside of an official diagnosis. Even then, the term anxiety will probably be used. There are different levels, but also many treatments.


When you have a rash, you will most likely be prescribed a topical medication. Where does that get applied?

Topical is just a fancy term for the surface of something. Think of the root of the word, "top." That will really help you navigate the term and anything that the term is associated with in the future.


The first part of the word perivascular can really help figure out the meaning of it, at least generally speaking. What does it mean?

It's sometimes super-easy to decipher what a complicated medical term means if you just dissect the word itself. In this case, peri means around or surrounding. Vascular means blood vessel, so the term means "around a vessel."


Some people are born needing a prosthesis, and some need one after an amputation. What does prosthesis mean?

A prosthesis is an artificial limb that is fitted to someone who has had an amputation or lost a limb through trauma or combat. There are robotic-like ones, athletic ones and others for everyday use.


Don't forget your inhaler if you suffer from bronchospasm, which means what?

If mucus is blocking your airway and making it hard to breathe, you could have asthma, or bronchospasm. Broncho relates to the ability to breathe, and spasm is a term meaning involuntary contraction of a muscle.


If it's hard for your food to make its way through your body, you may have malabsorption. What does that mean?

Digestion is a major bodily function that is crucial to the body being able to work properly. If your body can't process food and get rid of it the way it's supposed to, it can lead to severe discomfort and possible other serious complications.


Which normal function of the body is masticatory most related to?

Mastication is the process in which your teeth crush the food you are eating, also known as chewing. It's such an intense word, but then again, after reading the intense definition, it makes perfect sense.


Hopefully, you won't have a need for hemoperfusion, but if you do, it was most likely caused by a snake. What do you think it means?

Talk about intense! This process is used if one is every poisoned, or if poison finds a way into their blood stream. What's even more intense is that the blood is filtered outside of the body. Science is magic!


If you have a subclinical type of condition, you're most likely going to be fine. Why is that?

A subclinical condition of any kind just means a mild version. It's a modifier for something else, meaning you could have a subclinical flu or ear infection. It either doesn't need treatment, or the treatment will be very basic.


Some papules are cancerous, while come are just skin decoration. What are they?

While all papules are defined as "abnormal," not all are harmful to your body. A healthy one will be uniform in color and a smooth, distinct border. A potentially cancerous one will have jagged edges and color changes.


What body part is disordered by dystonia?

More specifically, dystonia is a movement disorder where someone's muscles will contract uncontrollably. Maybe only one muscle group is impacted, but multiples one can suffer at the same time.


You were definitely vaccinated for rubella, but hope it doesn't make a comeback. What is it?

With the comeback of a few formerly eradicated diseases, rubella is also at risk. It's a contagious virus with symptoms including low fever, body aches, sore throat and a rash that can spread from the face to the whole body.


If you've just experienced parturition, what will you name them?! Do you know what it means?

Parturition simple means giving birth! It is a joyous time in life and should be celebrated. There are so many options for giving birth these days. Women can give birth at home or in a hospital, and some women do it in the car on the way to the hospital.


If your eyes are as vitreous as a window, you might be sick. What does that mean?

Glassy eyes is a sure sign of some kind of illness. It could be as simple as a cold, or something more like mono. It's a buildup of a clear gel, vitreous, that happens when the body is fighting something off.


Hit up the dentist if you have gingivitis, which could cause pain when brushing your teeth. What is it?

Gingivitis is basically gum disease, the thing your dentist is always warning you about. That's why they tell you to brush twice a day and floss. The disease if caused by poor oral hygiene and excessive plaque buildup.


If your doctor asks for a supine position, flatten out and just pretend you're going to take a nap. Do you know what it means?

A lot of medical examinations require a supine position. The term implies that you are lying down face-up. Prone position means face-down. In medical purposes, this position allows the doctor access to most of your major organs.


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