Old Names, Provincial Terms, and Synonyms for Illnesses and Diseases

If you have wondered about the strange names given to diseases or illnesses, the following post provides a list of old names, provincial terms, and synonyms that were used for illness and diseases with today’s equivalent.

Ablepsy = Blindness
Abortus = Miscarriage
Ague = Malarial Fever
American Plague = Yellow Fever
Anasarca = Edema
Air between the pleura = Pneumothorax
Angina Maligna = See Putrid Sore Throat
Aneurismus = Aneurism
Aphtha or Aphthae = Thrush
Apoplectic Fit, Apoplexia, Apoplexy = Stroke
Asphycsia/Asphicsia = Cyanosis and lack of oxygen

Bad Blood = Syphilis
Bad smells or poisonous vapors = Miasma
Bilious Fever = Hepatitis, Malaria, Typhoid, or elevated temperature and bile emesis
Biliousness = Jaundice caused by Liver Disease
Black Death = Bubonic Plague
Black Fever = Visceral Leishmaniasis
Black Plague = Bubonic Plague
Black Vomit = Yellow Fever
Blackwater Fever = Complication of Malaria where red blood cells burst in the bloodstream and release hemoglobin into blood vessels and urine that frequently leads to kidney failure.
Blood Poisoning = Sepsis
Bloody Flux = Dysentery
Bloody Sweat = Hematidrosis
Bloody Urine = Hematuria or Haematuria
Blue Disease = Cyanosis
Bone-ache = Syphilis or Venereal Disease
Bone-ague = Syphilis or Venereal Disease
Bone Shave = Sciatica
Bowel Complaints = Thrush
Brain Fever = Encephalitis
Breakbone Fever = Dengue Fever
Bright’s Disease = Acute or Chronic Nephritis
Bronze John = Yellow Fever

Cachexy = Malnutrition
Cafarhus Epidemicus = Influenza
Camp Fever = Typhus
Canine Madness = Rabies
Catalepsy = Seizures or Trances
Catarrh or Catarrhal = Inflammation of the mucous membranes, a cold, or bronchitis
Catarrhus Epidemicus = Influenza
Catarrhus Vesicae = Catarrh of the bladder
Cerebritis = Lead Poisoning or Inflammation of Cerebrum
Childbed Fever = Puerperal Fever
Chin Cough – Pertussis or Whooping Cough
Chlorosis = Iron Deficiency Anemia
Cholera Biliosa = Cholera. This disease affected the ship Virginia and killed Madame Récamier.
Cholera Infantum = Cholera
Cholelithiasis = Gall Stones
Chylous Urine = Chyluria
Cold Plague = Ague characterized by contortions, convulsions, and dancing
Consumption = Pulmonary Tuberculosis
Congestive Chills = Malaria
Congestive Fever = Malaria
Colica = Colic
Coryza = Bronchitis
Cramp = Hysteria
Cramp Colic = Appendicitis
Croup = Diphtheria, Strep Throat, or spasmodic laryngitis associated with a cough and breath difficulties
Crural Phlebitis = Phlegmasia Dolens
Cyanosis = Dark skin color from lack of oxygen in blood
Cynanche Maligna = see Putrid Sore Throat
Cynanche Parotidea = Mumps
Cynanche Tonsillaris = Quinsy
Cynanche Trachealis = Croup

Day Fever = a fever lasting one day
Demence = Dementia
Dentition = Teething
Dock Fever = Yellow Fever
Dropsy = Accumulation of abnormally large amounts of fluid resulting in swelling or Edema
Dropsy on the brain = Hydrocephalus
Dropsy of the pericardium = Hydropericardium
Dropsy of the peritoneum = Ascites
Dropsy of the pleura = Hydrothorax
Drunkard’s Liver = Cirrhosis
Dry Bellyache = Lead poisoning
Dyspepsia = Indigestion, heartburn, or heart attack symptoms

Enteric Fever = Typhoid Fever
Emesis = Vomiting
Emphysema = Asthma
English Sweate or English Sweating Sickness = Sweating Sickness
Epilepsia = Epilepsy
Epitaxis = Nosebleed
Exanthemata = Exanthem

Falland-Evyl = Epilepsy
Falling Sickness = Epilepsy
Fainting = Syncope
Fatty Degeneration = Steatosis
Fit = Epilepsy
Febris Biliosa = Bilious Fever
Febris Typhoides = Typhus
Flooding = Bleeding
Flox = Thrush
Flux = Dysentery
Frox = Thrush
Frost = Thrush
French Pox = Syphilis

Glandular Fever = Mononucleosis
Grandular Disease = Acute or Chronic Nephritis
Great Pox = Syphilis
Green Fever or Green Sickness = Anemia
Grinder’s Asthma = Silicosis
Grocer’s Itch = Dermatitis caused by mites
Guinea Worm Disease = Drancunculiasis

Hallucinations due to alcoholism = Delirium Tremens
Hemiplegia = Paralysis
Haemorhagia = Bleeding
Hives = Chickenpox or Smallpox
Hip Gout = Osteomylitis
Horrors = Delirium Tremens
Hydatids = Echinococcosis
Hydropericardium = Collection of fluid around the heart resulting in constriction of the heart
Hydrophobia = Rabies
Hysteria Fit = Hysteria

Icterus = Jaundice
Idem with Tubercle = Meningitis
Idiotismus = Idiocy
Iliac Passion (blockage of the small and/or large intestine) = Ileus
Indigestion = Dyspepsia
Infantile Paralysis = Polio
Inflammation of the air tubes = Bronchitis
Inflammation of the ear = Otitis
Inflammation of the eye = Opthalmia
Inflammation of the internal membrane of the bowels = Enteritis
Inflammation of the internal membrane of the heart = Endocarditis
Inflammation of the internal membrane of the stomach = Gastritis
Inflammation of the joints = Arthritis
Inflammation of the larynx = Laryngitis
Inflammation of the liver = Hepatitis
Inflammation of the lungs = Pneumonia
Inflammation of the mucous membrane = Catarrh
Inflammation of the pericardium = Pericarditis
Inflammation of the periosteum = Periostitis
Inflammation of the testis = Orchitis
Inflammation of the pleura = Pleuritis
Inflammation of the spinal marrow = Myelitis
Inflammation of the veins = Phlebitis
Introversion of the bowels = Intussusception
Irtis = Opthalmia
Ischuria Urethralis = Stricture of the urethra or stoppage of the urine

Jail Fever = Typhus

King’s Evil = Scrofula or Tuberculous Cervical Lymphadenitis

Lagrippe – Influenza
Leiboma = Watery swelling of the eyelids
Lepra = Leprosy
Locked Jaw = Tetanus
Looseness = Diarrhea
Low Fever = Typhus
Lues Venera = Syphilis or Venereal Disease
Lung Fever = Pneumonia

Madness = Insanity
Malignant Sore Throat = Diphtheria
Membranous Croup – Diphtheria
Mesenteric Disease = Tuberculosis
Metritis = Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Metroperitonitis = Peritonitis
Miasmus = Poisonous vapors in the air
Milk Leg = Phlegmasia Alba Dolens
Miner’s Phthisis = Silicosis
Mismenstruation = Menstruation disorder or irregularity
Monomania = Melancholy
Morbus Pancreaticus = Diseases of the pancreas
Mormal = Gangrene

Nephrosis = Edema but is now used to described kidney degeneration
Nervous Prostration = Physical and mental exhaustion
Nutmeg Liver = Cirrhosis

Obstipation = Constipation
Ophthalmitis = Ophthalmia
Ophthalmia Purulenta = Ophthalmia

Palsy = Paralysis
Paralytic Fit = Paralysis
Paramenia = Menstruation disorder or irregularity
Paraplegia = Paralysis
Paronychia = Whitlow
Partus = Childbirth
Paroxysm = Convulsion
Perimetritis = Peritonitis
Pernicious Fever = Malaria
Pestis = Plague
Petechial Fever = Typhus
Phlegmasia Alba Dolens = A variety of diseases related to Deep Vein Thrombosis
Phrenitis = Encephalitis
Phthisis = Pulmonary Tuberculosis
Piles = Hemorrhoids
Pleuritis = Pleurisy
Podagra = Gout
Poliomyelitis = Polio
Potter’s Asthma =  Inflammation of the lungs similar to Silicosis.
Potter’s Rot = Silicosis
Puking Fever = Milk Sickness
Purples = Purpura
Purging = Diarrhea
Putrid Fever = Diphtheria
Putrid Sore Throat = Ulceration of an acute form that attacked the tonsils, see Quinsy
Pyrosis = Heartburn

Quinsy = Tonsillitis or Peritonsillar Abscess

Rachitis – Rickets
Remittent Fever = Malaria
Rheumatism = Sciatica
Rose Cold = Hay Fever
Rosalia = Scarlatina
Rubeola = German Measles
Rupture = Hernia

Scarlatina = Scarlet Fever
Scarlet Rash = Roseola
Scorbutus = Scurvy
Scrivener’s Palsy = Writer’s Cramp
Screws = Rheumatism
Senectus = Old Age
Shakes = Delirium Tremens
Skin Blisters = Shingles
Ship Fever = Typhus
Sloes = Milk sickness
Sore Throat Distemper = Diphtheria or Quinsy
Spasms = Hysteria
Spotted Fever = Typhus or Meningitis
St. Anthony’s Fire = Erysipelas and also for any skin that was bright red in appearance
Stranguria or Stranguary = Kidney Stones
St. Vitus’s Dance = Chorea
Sudor Anglicus = Sweating Sickness
Sugar in the liver = Diabetes
Swamp Sickness = Malaria, Typhoid, or Encephalitis
Swine Pox = Chickenpox or Smallpox
Sydenham’s Chorea = St. Vitus’s Dance

Tabes Mesenterica = Tuberculosis
Taenia = Tape Worm
Tic Douloureux = Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trismus = Tetanus
Turn of Life = Menstruation disorder or irregularity
Tussis Convulsiva = Whooping Cough
Typhus Icterodes = Yellow Fever

Ulcerated Sore Throat = Putrid Sore Throat
Ulcus = Ulcer
Uleus = Ulceration of the stomach
Under Childbed = Puerperal Fever
Under Disease = Salivation

Varicella = Chickenpox or Hives
Variola = Smallpox
Vermes = Worms
Vesicae = Disease of the kidneys or bladder
Viper’s Dance = Chorea
Vomiting of blood = Hematemesis

Wasting Away = Atrophy
Water Brash = Heartburn Pyrosis
Water on the Brain = Hydrocephalus
Water Pox = Chickenpox or Smallpox
White Mouth = Thrush
White Leg = Phlegmasia Alba Dolens
White Swelling = Scrofula, also known as Tuberculous Cervical Lymphadenitis
Winter Fever = Pneumonia
Womb Fever = Infection of the uterus

Yellowjacket = Yellow Fever 


  • Annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England, 1839
  • Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English, Vol. 1, 1886
  • Medical and Surgical Reporter, Vol. 9, 1856
  • Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Vol. 16, 1839
  • Watson, Sir Thomas, Lectures on the Principles & Practice of Physic, Vol. 2, 1871

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