Maturin's Medicine A-D

This is a part of the online glossary of the words and phrases in the Aubrey-Maturin books that are related to medical practice or general issues of human health. The main page is at Maturin's Medicine.

abdomen (YA 212):

The portion of the body between the diaphragm and the pelvis.

abdominal cavity (PC 63):

The inside of the abdomen, also known as ‘peritoneal cavity' after the thin lining of the abdominal cavity, which has two parts - the parietal peritoneum, which lines the inside of the abdominal wall, and the visceral peritoneum, which covers the intestines as they pass through the abdominal cavity. They are continuous with each other; if an intestine ruptures, or is penetrated by a bullet or other object, its contents enter the peritoneal cavity and this is what causes peritonitis, a grave and often fatal condition prior the availability of antibiotics. This is what happens if the appendix ruptures, for example. The kidneys are in the abdominal cavity, but not in the peritoneal cavity, rather they are 'retroperitoneal', that is, behind the peritoneal cavity.

ablation (M&C 345, FSW 89):

Surgical removal of an organ or of a growth, such as a tumor. Literally, to cut away, surgically.

Abraham (FSW 71):

A person who shams insanity, named for the Abraham ward at Bedlam.

accoucheur (SM 41):

An obstetrician.

acetum saturninum (C/T 143):

Something to do with vinegar and lead??

acid of sulphur, dulcified (SM 211):

Sulfuric acid, sweetened.

acne (COM 97):

A common skin disease, especially among adolescents, characterized by chronic inflammation of the sebaceous glands, usually causing pimples on the face, back and chest.

aconite (YA 24):

A genus of plants of the ranunculus family; most are poisonous, such as wolfsbane. It was used as a cardiac and respiratory sedative.

adamantine (IM 80):


adenoidal (HMSS 112, TMC 313):

Having the nasal tones similar to that of a person with enlarged adenoids.

aetiology (HMSS 91):

The study of causes, especially the causes of diseases.

affusion (DI 145, COM 226):

A remedy in fevers, consisting of pouring into the patient a quantity of water, usually from 50-70ƒF.

ague (DI 177):

A shivering fever, often malarial.

airsail (HMSS 114):

An auxiliary sail used to channel air into the sick bay.

alba mistura (DI 156):

(literally) White mixture. Magnesium Sulphate or Epsom Salts, used as a treatment for constipation.

Aleppo button (THD 96):

Boils or skin abscesses, a collection of pus localized deep in the skin, caused by staphylococcus aureas and may be associated with chills and fever; can also be caused by streptococcus. Hidradenitis suppurativa result from local inflammation of the sweat glands and appear in the armpits and groin. Apparently the "Aleppo" version was more serious, caused by staphylococcus, which also can cause a vicious inflammation of the skin that strips the outer skin layers off the body and leaves the under layers exposed, as in severe burns. There is a cutaneous version which usually heals itself, and a visceral form which if untreated, is fatal.

alexipharmic (COM 97):

An antidote against poisons.

allowance (M&C 67):

Surgeons were paid an allowance out of which they bought instruments. From 1781, it was 62 pounds. See also Queen Anne’s Gift.

Almoravian draught (PC 135):


alopecia (PC 397):

Baldness, lack of hair.

ambulent (IM 54):


ampulla (SM 331):

A globular flask of glass or earthenware.

amputation (PC 385, HMSS 140, TGS 140, NC 232, 302, BATM 183):

Removal, usually of a limb.

anaesthetic (COM 188):

A drug which causes insensibility to pain and other sensation.

androgynous (LM 235, BATM 35):

Having male and female characteristics.

aneurism (SM 214):

A permanent abnormal dilation of a blood vessel

anhidrotic (TMC 190):

A substance used to check perspiration.

anomalous lesions, in rats (DI 83):

Irregular or abnormal abnormalities in tissues.

anomaly of the pulse (HMSS 266):

An irregular rhythm of the pulse.

anorexia (HMSS 266):

Loss of appetite.

antaphrodisiac (PC 288):

An agent to depress or suppress sexual desire. The modern term is anaphrodesiac.

antimonial wine (TMC 140):

An emetic made from antimony potassium tartrate, water and fortified wine.

antimony, antimonial (DI 148, 156, 316, IM 58, TGS 30, COM 97):

A toxic metallic element, used as an emetic.

antiphlogistical (M&C 381):


antiscorbutic (M&C 89, DI 290, SM 41, IM 106, NC 200, 205, 207, 209, 211):

A remedy for scurvy.

aorta (PC 280, HMSS 347, BATM 228):

The main artery leaving the heart, carrying blood to the body.

aorta severed at the crest of the arch (DI 215):

The aorta exits the heart towards the head, then curves downward to the left. The curved portion is the aortic arch, and three vessels arise from it, to serve the head and upper part of the body. If severed at the crest, all of the body with the exception of the right side of the head and the right upper extremity would be deprived of blood, but that is moot since the patient would bleed to death in a few moments.

apex of the right lung (FOW 145):

The uppermost, tapering part of the lung

aphrodisiac (TGS 254):

A drug that excites sexual desire.

apoplexy (M&C 219, HMSS 120, 267, 278, IM 121, TH 149, 189, TGS 194):

Sudden impairment of neurological function, especially that resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage; a stroke. A sudden effusion of blood into an organ or tissue. A fit of extreme anger or rage.

Apothecaries’ Hall (M&C 43):

The Hall of the Society of Apothecaries, originally established in 1632, destroyed in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt in 1672 with an 'Elaboratory' for the first ever large-scale manufacture of drugs.

apothecary (M&C 38, PC 121, SM 321, TH 19, 27, 86, LM 256, 257, 259, 263, 270, 283, TGS 30, NC 23, 227, 271, BATM 79):

A pharmacist.

aprication (FSW 271):

Basking in the sun.

aquaregia (HMSS 100):

A corrosive mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid.

arcus senilis (HMSS 184):

An opaque circle around the cornea of the eye, as seen in elderly people.

Argand lamp (THD 51, 98):

An oil lamp invented in 1782 (patented in England in 1784) by the Swiss Aim¨™ Argand, with a steady, smokeless flame. The basis of his invention was a circular wick with a glass chimney that insured an adequate current of air up the centre and outside of the wick, which produced an even and proper combustion of the oil. This was smokeless and produced a brighter flame than any lamp before and saw major use in lighthouses until displaced by kerosene lamps in the 1860s.

arm. . . hanging at an unnatural angle (FOW 122):

A compound fracture of the right arm

Armenian bole (TMC 140):

A red, clayey earth, used as a styptic salve to prevent ulceration. Not sure why it would be taken internally??

arrive at term (SM 333):

To complete the full nine months of pregnancy

arterial ligature (M&C 90):

A thread or string for tying an artery to prevent hemorrhage.

artery (TMC 266, NC 277, BATM 241):

A blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

artery-hook (TGS 29, WDS 70):

A surgical instrument, used to lift and artery??

artery-wall (TMC 340):

The wall of an artery.

articulation (FSW 196):

A joint between bones, eg a knee or elbow.

artificial anus (SM 125):

An opening made to the colon or small intestine to expel waste when the large intestine or rectum is not functioning. A colostomy or ileostomy is a present-day example.

asafoetida (M&C 350, DI 317, NC 185, 186, COM 98):

The foetid gum resin or inspissated juice of a large umbelliferous plant (Ferula asafoetida) of Persia and the East India. It was used as a remedy for hysterical disorders, flatulent colics and as a promoter of the menses.

ascites (DI 105):

An effusion and accumulation of serous fluid in the abdominal cavity.

Asclepia (FOW 143):

Presumably named for the Greco-Roman god of medicine, Aesculapius or Asclepius, son of Apollo and the nymph Coronis and slain by Zeus, who was afraid he would make all men immortal. His chief attribute as a god was a staff with a serpent coiled around it.

asperity (IM 209):

Sharpness of temper.

assistant surgeon (NC 22):

The name given to a surgeon’s mate after 1805.

asthmatic (TGS 142):

Suffering from asthma, a respiratory disorder characterized by wheezing and a sense of constriction in the chest.

Aston (TGS 110):

A medical colleague of Maturin’s - probably fictitious.

ataraxy (HMSS 374):


auscultation (SM 125, 150, YA 196, THD 152):

A diagnostic procedure in which the physician listens to sounds of the chest or abdomen, to determine state of the heart or lungs. It was originally performed, before the invention of the stethoscope, by placing the ear directly on the chest. Auscultation was often used with percussion, the art of striking a surface part of the body with short, sharp taps to diagnose the condition of the parts beneath the sound, which was discovered by Leopold Auenbrugger (1722-1809) of Vienna.

Avicenna (TMC 79, TGS 194):

Ibn-Sina (980-1037) was a famous natural scientist and physician who wrote Qanun (Canon of Medicine).

bad presentation (TMC 32):

The situation where a foetus is not in a position for an easy birth.

bad teeth (HMSS 56):

Decayed teeth.

ball-scoop (M&C 67):

A scoop for extracting balls, ie bullets, from wounds.

balm (BATM 73):

A healing ointment.

Barbados leg (RM 26):

A form of elephantiasis incident to hot climates, producing an induration and darkening of the skin, chiefly on the leg.

bark (HMSS 264, 363, TMC 91, 242, FOW 175, IM 108, NC 23, C/T 93, COM 98):

The dried bark of any of several trees of the genus Cinchona containing alkaloids - as quinine, cinchonine, quinidine, and cinchonidine - and being used especially formerly as a specific in malaria, an antipyretic in other fevers, and a tonic and stomachic - called also cinchona bark, Jesuits' bark, Peruvian bark or Countess' powder (after the Countess of Cinchon). The 'tonic' in gin & tonic is quinine and was popular in the East Indies because it reduced fever in general. It still does, and with the gin you don't mind the fever.

barked shin (HMSS 48, FSW 30, LM 157):

A shin where the skin has been scraped in an accident.

barley-water (HMSS 357):

A drink made from an infusion of barley, often given to invalids.

Bart’s (TGS 40):

The common name for St Bartholomew’s Hospital, founded in 1123 in Smithfield, London.

basin (PC 480, 481):

A container for holding water for washing, or for vomiting into.

Basra (or Basrah) method, Andersen’s (LM 273, C/T 121, TGS 91, NC 192):

William Eton, an Englishman and former consul in Basra, wrote a letter to a doctor in Petersburg describing how an Arabian soldier's broken leg was treated with plaster of Paris. The letter was written in 1798 and appeared in some European medical papers, but many years passed before plaster of Paris was applied on a large scale in Europe. The technique consisted of pouring plaster pulp into a mould in which the broken leg was laid in the correct position.

Batavia pox (NC 106, 132):

The variety of syphilis common in Batavia??

Bath (PC 74, HMSS 76, 86, 137, DI 14):

An English town noted since Roman times for its hot springs and mineral waters.

Baudelocque (SM 159):

Jean-Louis Baudelocque (1745-1810) was a French surgeon whose best-known work was l’Art des accouchements (The art of obstetrics), 1781.

beast-leech (M&C 38):

A person skilled in the treatment of animals.

Bedlam (FSW 71):

A lunatic asylum, named after the Bethlehem ward at the Hospital of St Mary in London.

belladonna (TMC 190):

An alkaloid drug obtained from the deadly nightshade plant, used as a sedative, stimulant, anhidrotic and antispasmodic.

belly-ache (NC 212):

A pain in the stomach, common among children, possibly from indigestion.

belly-wound (PC 432):

An abdominal wound.

benign prostration (FOW 275):

Collapse, but temporary and not serious.

benign tumour (DI 14):

A tumour not threatening to life or health, not malignant.

benzoin (TGS 225):

A gum resin containing benzoic acid, used as an expectorant, styptic and antiseptic. The compound tincture is known as Friar’s Balsam.

betel (NC 96):

A plant, whose leaves and nut are chewed by the people of S and SE Asia, as a digestive stimulant and narcotic.

bezoar (HMSS 363):

A hard mass formed in the stomachs of animals, thought to be an antidote for poisons.

bhang (HMSS 194):

A narcotic drug produced from cannabis.

biceps (M&C 138):

A muscle between the elbow and shoulder.

bile (HMSS 264, NC 16):

A fluid secreted by the liver and stored in the gall bladder.

bile-duct (HMSS 91):

The passage between the liver and the gall bladder.

bilious (HMSS 227, TGS 16):

Resulting from a disorder relating to excessive secretion of bile; but also meaning irritable.

bilious facies (C/T 15):

The facial appearance of someone suffering from liver dysfunction.

birthday suit (HMSS 137, TGS 257):

At that time, it meant either a suit of good clothes to wear on a special occasion - such as the celebration of a royal birthday - or nakedness (which is its meaning nowadays).

bistoury (PC 436, COM 12):

A small slender surgical knife with a straight or curved blade and a very sharp point.

black bile (C/T 15):

See choler.

black choler (NC 178):

See choler.

black dog (TMC 322):


black draught (M&C 254, TMC 242, DI 15, 107, TH 280, FSW 204, NC 230, 233, WDS 137, COM 88):

A liquid purgative consisting of an infusion of senna with sulphate of magnesia and extract of liquorice.

black mandrake of Kamschatka (LM 258):

Possibly a narcotic or antispasmodic.??

black vomit (COM 225):

Yellow fever.

Blane (M&C 67, HMSS 117, 119):

Sir Gilbert Blane published Observations on the Diseases Incident to Seamen in London in 1785.

bleeding, blooding, blood-letting (HMSS 119, 125, IM 41, TH 137, 189, FSW 107, 111, 115, 228, 309, TGS 45, 165, 281, NC 188, COM 225, BATM 25):

The therapeutic removal of blood - also called a phlebotomy, literally to cut open a vein. It is now used in treatment of polycythemia, which is an excess of red blood cells.

blistering (TGS 281):

A form of treatment in which a blister is caused to form on the skin, as a counter-irritant for disorders such as pneumonia. Cantharides was often used for this purpose.

bloody flux (M&C 26, FOW 16, THD 111):

Dysentery, a disease in which the flux or discharge from the bowels has a mixture of blood.

blown out his gaff (DI 123):

Caused him to vomit??

blue coat (M&C 42):

The uniform coat prescribed for naval surgeons after 1805 had blue lapels. It was similar to a naval physician’s coat but without gold lace on the sleeves.

blue devils (DI 238, LM 28, C/T 17):

A feeling of depression.

blue draught (WDS 137):

A standard liquid medicine, presumably containing a compound of mercury.

blue ointment (NC 188, YA 124, THD 43):

A treatment for syphilis, composed of metallic mercury triturated with lard.

blue pill (HMSS 264 , DI 107, FSW 204, C/T 14, TGS 45, 49, NC 188, 230, 233):

A mercury based pill, used as a treatment for syphilis and also as a laxative.

blue teeth (IM 130):

Possible discoloration due to malnutrition??

bob wig (LM 58, 273):

A short wig without a queue. See physician’s bob.

bolus (PC 386, 388, 390, 396, 397, 401, HMSS 144, 145, SM 330, C/T 143, WDS 7, COM 188, THD 16, 110):

A pill shaped mass.

bombinating (HMSS 183):


bone-rasp (M&C 67, DI 308, FOW 34):

A surgical bone file.

borborygm (DI 140):

A rumbling or gurgling noise produced by wind in the bowels. The current term is borborygmus and plural borborygmi.

Botany Bay liver (C/T 28):

Possibly cirrhosis of the liver, caused by excessive drinking of rum??

bound feet (TGS 188):

The practice of binding the feet of Chinese women began in the 9th century BCE, apparently to imitate an imperial concubine who was required to dance with her feet bound. The practice would cause the soles of feet to bend in extreme concavity. It was common until the 20th century.

bowels (HMSS 249, TMC 245, IM 117, COM 118):

Compassion or courage; also intestines. The term may also be used in questions about the state of a patient’s defecation.

bowels upset (LM 142, NC 134):


brace the fibres (HMSS 78):

To improve the patient’s general state of health.

brachial artery (BATM 7):

An artery in the upper part of the arm.

brainpan (M&C 155):

The skull.

breech (IM 292):


breech-presentation (NC 116):

In pregnancy, a condition where the baby’s feet or buttocks appear first.

brimstone (DI 148, YA 116):


brimstone and treacle (M&C 272, PC18):

A laxative; also used as a spring tonic for children.

bronchus (M&C 37):

Each of the main two branches of the trachea or windpipe.

buboes (M&C 261):

Painful swellings of the lymph nodes in the groin, armpits, neck, or elsewhere in the body. A symptom of bubonic plague.

bubonic plague (IM 229):

An acute infectious febrile disease, also known as ‘the black plague’ or 'the black death' which killed one third of the population of Europe - 25 million people - in the fourteenth century. It is a disease of rodents, mainly rats, but is transmitted to humans by fleas. It is now curable with antibiotics, but can kill rapidly if treatment is not started immediately.

Buchan’s Domestic Medicine (FSW 66, RM 116):

William Buchan (1729-1805) was a Scottish physician whose famous book was published in 1769.

buldoo-panee (PC 122):


bulimy (TMC 79):

Bulimia; over-eating.

bullet, to bite on (PC 437):

A patient undergoing surgery was given something to bite on when the pain became intense. A bullet was often used.

bunion (YA 61):

Inflammation and swelling of the bursa at the base of the big toe, with thickening of the skin.

bursten bellies (C/T 210):


butcher’s bill (PC 393, 491, IM 196, LM 200, BATM 242):

A count of the dead and wounded after a battle.

butcher’s boy (PC 348):

Butcher’s assistant.

cachexy (IM 54, FSW 325):

A generally weakened condition of the body or mind. Cachexia refers to severe wasting of the body, as in starvation, or in AIDS, or end stage cancer.

cacothymia (PC 156):

Disorder of mind; moral depravity; insane morbidity of temper.

cadaver (IM 108, LM 45, TGS 189, 252, 253):

A corpse.

cadaverous (HMSS 136):

Thin or corpselike.

calenture (HMSS 263, FSW 107, WDS 12):

A mild tropical fever, with symptoms similar to sunstroke.

calliphora (YA 97):

Blue-bottle flies.

calomel (DI 308, C/T 16, TGS 165, WDS 75):

Mercurous chloride or protochloride of mercury, Hg2Cl2, much used as a purgative.

calor, rubor, dolor (TH 77):

Heat, redness and pain. Three of the four definitive characteristics of inflammation, as in a boil. The fourth is 'tumor' which means 'swelling'.

calumba root (COM 225):

The root of an African plant (Jatrorrhiza palmata), used as a mild tonic and stomachic (ie something good for the stomach).

Cambodia bole (NC 54):

A type of clay used as a styptic dressing.

camomile (LM 258):

The flowers of any of the plants of the genus Anthemis, used to make a soothing infusion.

camphire (COM 97):

An Old World plant (Lawsonia inermis) of the loosestrife family; also called henna. It was said to reduce perspiration and was used as a perfume.

camphor (C/T 143):

A whitish crystalline aromatic substance from the wood of the camphor tree, used as a liniment and formerly, as a diaphoretic.

camphorated vinegar (TGS 281):

A mixture of powdered camphor and vinegar, sometimes used as a disinfectant??

cantharides (DI 145, TH 85):

A diuretic and urogenital stimulant. Also known as Spanish fly.

canvas shift (HMSS 86):

A garment made of canvas, similar to a hospital gown.

Cape Horn scurvy (COM 2):

Scurvy caused by a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables when a ship takes a very long time to round Cape Horn??

carboy (LM 108, 254, 282, TGS 30):

A large glass bottle, used to store chemicals.

carcinoma (HMSS 119):

A malignancy of the epithelial tissues, such as the skin, lining of the gastrointestinal tract, or tissues of the solid organs.

cardamon (YA 227):

An Asian plant of the ginger family; its seed is used to flavour medicines. It is also used in cooking.

carious (DI 177, NC 116):

Having caries, especially of the teeth; decayed.

carminative (SM 41):

Expelling gas from the intestinal tract; relieving colic, griping, or flatulence.

carotic pulse (COM 225):

The pulse at the great artery of the neck, which conveys the blood from the aorta to the head.

carotid artery (TMC 264):

The major artery of the neck.

cartilage (HMSS 353):


caruncula lachrymalia (SM 42):

The fleshy bit at the inner corner of the eye, which contains the two lachrymal ducts which drain the tears into the nasal cavity.

case-bottle (TMC 242):

A bottle whose square shape enabled it to be packed into a shipping case.

cassia (DI 308):

Cassia fistulae, a laxative. Also known as syrup of senna, made from the pulp of cassia pods. It tints the urine green or brown.

castoreum (M&C 350):

Preputial follicles of the beaver, abbreviated as 'castor', and used in perfumery.

castrate (HMSS 259):

To remove the testicles.

catalepsy, cataleptic (M&C 95, PC 299, HMSS 101, TMC 139, SM 156):

A condition characterised by lack of response to external stimuli and by muscular rigidity, so that the limbs remain in whatever position they are placed. It is known to occur in a variety of physical and psychological disorders, such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, and can be induced by hypnosis.

cathartic (YA 116, BATM 188):

A medicines for stimulating evacuation of the bowels.

catlin, catling (M&C 259, HMSS 272, DI 308, FOW 228, 248, COM 12):

A double-edged, sharp-pointed dismembering knife.

caudle (HMSS 74, BATM 23):

A hot spiced wine drink made with gruel.

cauliflower ear (PC 191):

A scarred and swollen ear.

causa causans (TGS 72):

The primary cause.

cauterize (NC 225):

To burn or sear body tissue with a hot iron or caustic agent, in the treatment of a wound to stop bleeding and prevent infection.

cerebral (FSW 309):

Pertaining to the brain.

cerebral congestion (TMC 127, TH 149):


cerous (SM 42):


ceruse (HMSS 228):

A white lead pigment, used in cosmetics.

cervical vertebrae (C/T 143):

The upper seven vertebrae of the spinal column - the ones in the neck.

chain (NC 134):

Used for securing the patient during an operation.

chalybeate waters or springs (TGS 281, THD 147):

Waters containing iron salts, believed to be tonic and claimed to relieve “complaints peculiar to the female sex".

chamber pot (HMSS 173, LM 65):

A portable toilet bowl.

charlatan (HMSS 360):

A pretender to knowledge; a quack.

charnel-house (HMSS 142):

A building where corpses or bones are stored.

Cheseldon’s lithotomy (PC 335):

William Cheselden (1688-1752) was a famous surgeon who wrote Treatise on the High Operation for Stone in 1723. He is reported to have removed a stone from the bladder in 54 seconds.

chickenpox (RM 31):

Varicella; a mild eruptive disease, bearing some resemblance to small-pox, chiefly occurring in children.

chilblains (C/T 165, TGS 149):

Redness and swelling of toes, fingers, nose, ears, or cheeks in cold weather, accompanied by itching and burning and sometimes cracking and ulceration of the skin.

childbed (HMSS 74):

The condition of giving birth.

chill (PC 287):

The shaking chill that accompanies a high fever, also known as rigor, a tremor caused by a chill.

chirurgical (TMC 91):


cholagogue, cholegogue (PC 332, IM 58, C/T 16):

An agent for increasing the flow of bile into the intestines.

choler, choleric (M&C 181, IM 292, NC 237, BATM 138):

Irritation of the passions; anger; wrath. According to ancient physiological theory, there are four principal humours or fluids in the body - phlegm, blood, choler or yellow bile, and black bile. Whenever any one of these predominates it determines the temper of the mind and body; hence the expressions sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholic humours. Choler was believed to be the source of irascibility.

cholera (PC 92):

A severe disease of acute gastroenteritis marked by severe cramps, diarrhoea, and vomiting. It is caused by bacteria called Vibrio cholerae, or Vibrio comma -because it is shaped like a comma. It is transmitted through contaminated water and is seen in wars, displaced persons camps, etc. There is a vaccine that is not very effective, and it is fatal unless treated with adequate intravenous fluids. Antibiotics shorten the duration of the disease, but are not necessary so long as fluids and minerals are replaced.

cholera morbus (M&C 107, RM 180):

A gastrointestinal disturbance characterized by griping, diarrhoea, and sometimes vomiting.

choleric (HMSS 194):

Bad-tempered. See humours.

chuckle-headed (HMSS 204):


cicatrizing (C/T 143):

Forming scars at the site of a healing wound.

cinchona (COM 243):

See bark.

cingulum bandages (HMSS 347, TMC 242, FOW 319, FSW 325, LM 199, TGS 149, C/T 200):

Bandages large enough to wrap like a girdle around the waist.

cinnabar (C/T 144):

Mercuric sulphide, used for treating complaints of the head and nerves..

circumcision (FOW 20):

Surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis.

cirrhosis (C/T 28):

A degenerative disease in an organ of the body, especially the liver, marked by excessive formation of connective tissue and the subsequent contraction of the organ.

clavicle (TMC 195, IM 137, WDS 12):

The collarbone.

cleft palate (FSW 75):

A congenital crack in the midline of the hard palate, often associated with a hare lip. A person with this condition usually cannot speak clearly.

climacteric (M&C 181, IM 80):

A critical period or year in a person's life when major changes in health or fortune are thought to take place; therefore a crisis in the treatment of a disease or medical condition. The term nowadays refers specifically to the menopause.

Cloaths in Sick Quarters (M&C 91):

Possibly a charge for the supply of clean clothing for a patient when quartered in the sick berth??

clonic spasm (TMC 140):

It's not clear what Patrick O'Brian meant here. A clonic spasm is a seizure involving the whole body, such as an epileptic seizure. But from the context of the story, he may have intended this to be a "colonic spasm", that is a spasm of the colon.

close-stool (NC 25, 28):

A portable toilet, including a seat and chamber pot.

club-foot (HMSS 121, TGS 188):

The condition properly known as talipes, a congenital deformity in which the foot is twisted in an unnatural position.

clyster (FSW 296, C/T 32):

An enema.

coca (FSW 160, 172, 204, LM 187, 258, 263, 277, TGS 38, NC 23, 96, 117, 120, 223, 224, 225, 226, 233, WDS 2 passim, THD 55, BATM 73, 208, 225):

A shrub, native to the Andes, whose leaves contain cocaine and are chewed for their stimulating effects.

cockpit (M&C 121, PC 11, 135, 319, 381, 491, THD 40):

An area on a lower deck where the surgeon operated, especially during battle.

cods (IM 208):


coition (IM 229):

Sexual intercourse.

coitus interruptus (LM 17):

Sexual intercourse in which the penis is withdrawn before ejaculation, often used as a contraceptive measure.

colchicum (DI 15):

A medicine derived from meadow saffron, used to treat gout and rheumatic disorders.

colcothar of vitriol (THD 43):

A finely powdered form of ferric oxide, used as a pigment; also called jewellers’ rouge.??

cold-sponging (DI 15):

A technique for lowering the temperature of a patient.

colic (FOW 167):

A griping pain in the bowels.

College of Surgeons (BATM 183):

In 1540, Henry VIII united the surgeons and barbers to form the Company of Barber-Surgeons. By the 18th century, through the development of an academic basis for surgical practice, the numbers and importance of surgeons increased and in 1745, the surgeons broke away from the barbers to form a separate Company of Surgeons with its own hall close to the Old Bailey and Newgate Prison. In 1800, the Company of Surgeons was granted a Royal Charter to become The Royal College of Surgeons in London, later of England.

colocynth (TH 280):

The dried fruit of the cucurbitaceous plant Citrullus colocynthus used as a purgative.

colon (TGS 147, NC 230):

The part of the large intestine above the rectum.

coma (PC 135, TMC 96, SM 81, FSW 309, LM 55, NC 241, COM 230, YA 68, 98):

A state of unconsciousness from which a patient cannot be aroused.

comatose (TMC 288, IM 246, NC 132, YA 72):

In a state of coma.

comforter (HMSS 78, IM 157, 159, FSW 198):

A scarf, usually woollen.

comminuted fracture (WDS 247):

A fracture in which the bone is shattered into small fragments

common carotid (FOW 248):

The major artery leading to the brain with a pulse palpable in the neck

comparative anatomy (TGS 253):

The study of the structure of different species of animals, with the aim of discovering points of similarity.

comparative osteology (NC 121):

The study of the structure of bones of different species of animals.

compass¨™ (HMSS 338):


complexion (HMSS 13, PC 247):

The colour and general appearance of a person’s skin.

compound fracture (M&C 68, LM 133, 157, 159, TGS 141, NC 54, WDS 127):

A fracture in which the broken bone pierces the skin.

concupiscence, concupiscent (SM 177, TH 57):

Sexual desire.

concussion (HMSS 298, YA 68):

A condition of impaired functioning of the brain as a result of a violent blow or impact.

confectio Damocritis (C/T 144):

Confectio is a preparation ??

confined, confinement (TMC 31, DI 243):

This term can mean in childbed or undergoing childbirth, but is also used for a general state of pregnancy.

congestion (M&C 219):

Heart disease, possibly leading to heart failure.

congestion of the hepatic ducts (C/T 27):

The condition where gallstones block the flow of bile to the intestines.

constipation (TMC 92):

Inability to evacuate the bowels.

consumption (DI 44, 51):

A condition characterized by a wasting of the tissues, especially as seen in tuberculosis. The word was used commonly for tuberculosis in former times.

contagion (M&C 156):

The transmission of disease by direct or indirect contact.

contubernal (NC 32):

A person with whom one shares living quarters.

contumelious (LM 22):

Bad tempered.

contusion (PC 299, IM 251, NC 137, 139, BATM 5):

An injury in which the skin is not broken, eg a bruise.

convulsion (IM 97):

A violent involuntary contraction of a muscle, so as to agitate the limbs or the whole body.

copulation (TGS 162):

Engaging in sexual intercourse.

coriaceous (TH 61, NC 278):

Resembling leather.

corn (HMSS 91, FSW 57):

A hardening of the skin, especially on the toes, caused by friction or rubbing.

corpulent, corpulence (HMSS 278, TMC 79):


corrosive sublimate (C/T 76):

Mercury chloride- a poisonous compound

Corvisart (SM 150):

Jean Nicolas Corvisart-Desmarets (1755-1821) was a French physician who was famous for his practice of auscultation, or listening to body sounds.

costive, costiveness (M&C 138, M&C 271, PC 100, PC 338, RM 180):

Constipated or the state of constipation.

counter-irritants (M&C 52):

The application of an action to the skin to relieve an internal symptom.

court plaster (M&C 268, FSW 291, BATM 73):

A sticking plaster made of silk coated with isinglass, used for covering superficial wounds.

cramps (HMSS 88):

Painful involuntary muscle contractions.

crapula, crapulous (TH 100, NC 90):

Relating to a hangover, with symptoms of nausea, headache, gastritis, thirst and a generalized malaise; resulting from intemperance.

creeping skerit (YA 24):

Possibly the Water Parsnip Skirret (Sium sisarum), an edible, multi-fingered root used as a diuretic and cleansing agent, good for dropsy, liver disorders and jaundice. Closely related is Upright Water Parsley (Sium angustifolium) which was used for stopping purging and haemorrhages.

crepitation, crepitus (NC 192, C/T 122, YA 98):

A grating or crackling sound or sensation, as that produced by the fractured ends of a bone moving against each other.

creta alba (M&C 229):

Chalk or calcium carbonate, the standard ingredient in antacids; also used in the treatment of diarrhoea.

cretin (TMC 20):

A person afflicted with cretinism, symptomised by dwarfism and mental retardation.

criminal conversation (HMSS 224, TGS 189):

Adultery. It is a measure of our changing language that a guardian in Maturin’s time would be more concerned to know that his ward was engaged in conversation than in intercourse.

crisis (HMSS 266):

A crucial stage in disease.

croup (RM 31, NC 212):

An inflammatory disease of the larynx and trachea of children, marked by a peculiar sharp ringing cough.

crowbill, crowsbill (HMSS 352, FSW 291 LM 108,199, ):

A type of forceps used to extracts bullets and similar bodies from wounds.

crudities (DI 92):

Internal waste which is to be expelled by vomiting.

crushed toes (COM 185):

Toes injured, eg by a runaway cannon.

Cullen (TGS 280):

William Cullen (1710-1790) was a physician who wrote on mental illness.

Cullis (LM 123):


cunning-man (M&C 38, FSW 112):

A fortune teller.

cupping (LM 273, TGS 281):

The practice of applying a cup or glass to draw blood to the surface of the skin. A partial vacuum has been generated in the cup by heating or suction.

cut (BATM 42):


cutaneous (TMC 141):

Relating to the skin.

Cuvier (SM 158, TGS 106, 211, 255):

A reference to Georges Chretien Leopold, Baron Cuvier (1769-1832), regarded as the founder of modern comparative anatomy.

cynanche parotidaea (IM 228):

The disease known as mumps. Cynanche refers to diseases of the throat and the parotid salivary gland located in front of the ear is the organ most affected by mumps.

cystotomy (PC 62, 434, FOW 197, C/T 38):

An operation involving cutting into the bladder to remove a stone. More generally, the act or practice of opening encysted tumours, for the discharge of morbid matter.

datura stramonium (YA 24):

Datura is a herb of the nightshade family, poisonous, with an unpleasant odor. Stramonium is the dried leaves and flowering top of the jimson weed, formerly used as an antispasmodic and a sedative (it can also be an hallucinogenic).

davier (HMSS 353):

A pair of forceps, usually for dental work.

De Lue Venerea (C/T 76):

(Literally) Venus' plague - syphilis. Jean Astruc (1684-1766) was a French physician who published a book by this name in 1736.

De Ossibus (DI 85):

A thesis written by Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), Italian physician and physicist, on the formation and development of bones.

deafness (PC 236):

Aubrey hopes that “taking the waters” may help Lt Parker’s deafness.

death-bed (HMSS 159):

A bed in which a person dies.

debility (BATM 177):

Weakness or infirmity.

decoction (DI 90):

The process of boiling in water to extract soluble parts.

decoction of their principle (IM 109):

Extract of their principal ingredient??

decrepitude (TH 137):

State of being broken down by long or hard use.

deglutination (COM 230):

The act of swallowing.

delirium (HMSS 359, NC 23, COM 229):

A temporary state of extreme mental excitement, marked by restlessness, confused speech, and hallucinations. It sometimes occurs during a fever.

delirium tremens (DI 215):

A serious medical condition seen in acute withdrawal of alcohol from a chronic alcoholic, with delirium and hallucinations, but also with high fever and severe electrolyte imbalance, which can be rapidly fatal if not treated. It can be prevented by the administration of benzodiazapams - tranquilizers - in high and slowly decreasing doses, always in a hospital setting. Also known as DT.

dement (PC 243, 257):

A patient suffering from insanity.

demi-lune (HMSS 352, 353):

A crescent-shaped surgical saw.

depressed cranial fracture, depressed fracture of the skull (M&C 138, PC 335, TMC 288, 296, FSW 313, 325, C/T 112, WDS 21):

A fracture of the skull that results in the bone being forced inward, causing pressure on the brain resulting in unconsciousness and, if unrelieved, in death.

desiccate (HMSS 229):

To cause to dry.

despondency (COM 229):

Loss of hope or courage.

dewlaps (IM 121, 276):

Loose skin on an older person’s throat.

diagnosis (PC 335):

The identification of diseases from the observation of symptoms and the results of tests available.

diaphoretic (IM 58):

Causing perspiration.

diaphragm (HMSS 252):

A membrane separating the abdomen and the thorax.

difficulty of presentation (SM 331):

An abnormal position of the foetus in the uterus.

digitalis (DI 106, TH 259):

Medicine derived from the foxglove plant. It was discovered by William Withering, an English physician and botanist (1741-99) to cure oedema or 'dropsy' which is severe congestive heart failure. It is in use today for a variety of heart ailments, although now extracts such as digoxin rather than the plant extract are used, since it is easier to dose than the extract is.

digitalis purpurea (YA 197):

Dried leaves of purple foxglove, used to cure oedema or dropsy, and also as an emetic.

Dioscorides (IM 136):

Pedanius Dioscorides (c 40-90) was a Greek botanist who wrote a book on the drugs of his time, which remained the leading pharmacological text for sixteen centuries.

Diseases of Seamen (C/T 56):

A reference book written by Stephen Maturin.

dislocation (FSW 227, YA 201):

An injury in which the bones are displaced from their normal position.

disorder (PC 99, 100,101):

A disturbance in the health of a patient.

dispensary (TGS 280, 283, NC 16, YA 196):

The place where drugs were dispensed and patients treated.

displacency (PC 100):

The transfer of an emotion pertaining to one set of ideas to an inappropriate idea; transfer of emotion from repressed conflict.

dissect, dissecting, dissection (PC 185, HMSS 88, 141, TGS 253, 254, BATM 173):

To separate by cutting, sometimes in a post-mortem examination.

dissector (HMSS 247):

One who dissects.

distal (NC 192):


distal extremity (FOW 34):

The bottom end.

distemper (IM 229):

A disease or disorder.

dose (PC 389):

A quantity of a healing drug.

dosed (HMSS 88, BATM 165):

Given a dose of a medicine.

double pox (THD 94):

Pox is syphilis, but double pox??

double tertians (COM 242):

An illness occurring every other day??

Dr Cheyne (IM 107):

George Cheyne (1671-1743) was a physician who wrote on health and medicine.

Dr Clowes (HMSS 225, 226):


Dr Mead’s Instant Invigorator (HMSS 74):

A patent medicine.

Dr Ward’s dropsy (NC 87):

See entry for Ward’s pill. Mrs Raffles is probably confusing dropsy with drops.

drachm (DI 148, IM 89, TH 281, C/T 143):

A weight of about 1/16 of an ounce Avoirdupois.

draught (HMSS 78):

A current of air.

draught (NC 58, 219):

A dose of medicine to be drunk.

drench (DI 107):

To administer a draught of medicine in a forcible manner.

dressed (PC 393):

Having a protective covering applied to a wound.

dresser (LM 123, NC 277, 278):

A person who assisted a surgeon during an operation.

dressing (HMSS 144):

A covering for a wound.

drop (PC 287, TMC 140):

A small quantity of liquid, approx. .05 of a ml.

dropsy, dropsical (PC 243, TH 259, YA 195):

A morbid condition characterised by the accumulation of watery fluid in the serous cavities or the connective tissue of the body, often first and most obvious in the ankles and lower legs.

dry gripes (FSW 149):

Stomach cramps, also specifically, lead poisoning.

ductus choledocus communis (NC 16):

The common bile duct.

Duhamel (HMSS 141):

Henri Louis Duhamel de Monceau (1700-1782) wrote widely on various topics, including physiology.

Dupuytren (TMC 29, 168, SM 138, 150, 330, THD 32, 200):

Guillaume, Baron Dupuytren (1777-1835) was a famous French surgeon and pathologist best known for his description and development of surgical procedures for alleviating "Dupuytren’s contracture" (see quasi-calcification of the palmar aponeurosis). He introduced a new classification of burns and provided the first clear description of the pathology of congenital dislocation of the hip (1826). He devised many other surgical procedures as well.

dura mater (M&C 138):

The outermost, toughest and most fibrous of the three membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

dysentery (HMSS 166, TMC 293, SM 331, NC 64, COM 191, BATM 89):

An infectious disease marked by inflammation and ulceration of the lower part of the bowels, with diarrhea that becomes mucous and haemorrhagic.

dyspepsia, dyspepsy, dyspeptic (M&C 188, PC 99, C/T 87):

A disorder of the digestive system - especially the stomach - involving weakness, loss of appetite and depression of spirits.

dysphony (NC 277):

A speech impediment.

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Last updated 27 June 2005