Maturin's Medicine E-L

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.

eczema, eczematous (PC 99,100):

Acute or chronic dermatitis or skin condition, which may manifest as a rash, pustules, scales, crusts, scabs, watery discharge, thickening, itching or burning. The causes may be debilitating illness, allergies, genetic disposition or psychological factors.

electuary (DI 156):

A medicinal conserve or paste consisting of a powder or other ingredient mixed with honey, preserve or syrup.

elephantiasis (RM 26):

The name given to various kinds of cutaneous disease, which produce in the part affected an abnormal swelling and in the skin a resemblance to an elephant's hide. It is caused by nematodes of the superfamily Filarioidea that invade the subcutaneous tissues and lymphatics of mammals. In the form of heartworm, it may be fatal to dogs and other mammals.

emaciation (NC 278):

Abnormal thinness.

emasculated, emasculation (TMC 341, FSW 301):


embrocation (C/T 143):


emetic (M&C 215, TGS 281):

A medicine that causes vomiting.

empiric (FSW 54):

A medical quack.

emulsion (LM 278):

A mixture in which one liquid is dispersed in another.

enemata (TMC 140, C/T 16, BATM 177):

An enema is a liquid injected into the colon through the anus as a purgative or medicine. See also clyster.

entrails (NC 230):

Internal abdominal organs; intestines.

eparterial (M&C 37):

Situated above the pulmonary artery.

epidemical distemper (FOW 175):

An illness of epidemic proportions.

esculent (DI 289):


essential lesion (TMC 32):

The fundamental injury or condition relating to a disease or disorder.

état d¬íâme (BATM 165):

State of spirit.

Etna pumice (IM 134):

Pumice - a light volcanic rock - is an abrasive agent used to remove hair.

euphory (NC 224):

A feeling of elation.

exaltation (TMC 259):

A feeling of intense well-being.

Examen de Pyrrhonisme (COM 9):

An Investigation of Scepticism. Pyrrho of Elis, a contemporary of Aristotle, founded the skeptical school of philosophy.

excoriated (LM 55):

Having had the skin stripped away.

exfoliation (TMC 340):

Shedding of the skin.

exhibit (TMC 140):

To offer as a medicine; also, to show as symptoms or condition.

expectorant (IM 58):

An agent used to clear mucus from breathing passages.

exsanguine (PC 387):


external carotid (M&C 90):

A major blood vessel in the neck.

external iliac (SM 214):

The major abdominal artery

external malleolus (C/T 99):

A malleolus is the rounded lateral projection on each bone of the leg at the ankle. The external malleolus is the spur of the fibula.

extractor (HMSS 351):

A instrument for removing objects during surgery.

extravasated blood (PC 181, DI 271, FSW 313):

Rupture of a blood vessel into the surrounding tissues.

extravasations (HMSS 140):

Blood or other bodily fluids leaking into surrounding tissues.

eye-tooth (HMSS 308):

A canine tooth near the front of the upper jaw.

facies (M&C 275, SM 42):

The general facial expression of a patient.

facies febris (COM 225):

A febrile appearance, flushed with fever.

falling damps (M&C 161, 401, HMSS 88, TMC 93, IM 80, LM 69, NC 193, C/T 17, COM 207):

Possibly falling dew at night??

false pregnancy (PC 99, 100, TMC 92):

A condition in which the patient imagines herself pregnant and exhibits symptoms of true pregnancy.

febrifuge (COM 99):

A substance that reduces fever; an antipyretic.

febrility, febrile (HMSS 264, NC 23, COM 48):

Weakness caused by fever

femoral artery (SM 214, M&C 132):

The chief blood vessel in the thigh.

femur (PC 244, 491, HMSS 195, LM 157):

The thigh bone.

fetor (NC 184):

A offensive odour.

fever (PC 161, HMSS 351-358, NC 23):

An abnormally high body temperature, accompanied by a fast pulse rate and other symptoms.

fever of the blood (PC 198):

Maturin is experiencing hot-bloodedness or lovesickness, rather than a medical condition.

fibres, relaxation (PC 175, COM 15):

Muscles, to be eased by drinking hot milk or (less likely) coffee.

fibula (HMSS 194):

A pin or ring inserted into a young woman’s genitalia to prevent intercourse.

fibula (LM 133, TGS 141):

The thinner of the two bones between the knee and ankle.

flannel waistcoat (TH 137):

A garment worn close to the skin to avoid chills. Lord St Vincent ordered seamen to wear flannel next to the skin over the opposition of surgeons who believed that it was not healthy to do so while the seamen worked and sweated, without the chance to wash regularly.

flap (M&C 137):

A piece of skin or flesh dangling from a wound which must be sewn up. Also, a piece deliberately left in an amputation, to cover the site of the amputation with skin.

flayed (TMC 297):


fleam (FSW 108, 111, 115):

A lancet used for letting blood.

fleam-toothed saw (M&C 259):

A saw with teeth shaped like an isosceles triangle, sharpened on both edges.

flensed (TMC 297):


fluor albus (C/T 76):

White venereal discharge.

flux (FSW 224, LM 146, COM 176, BATM 89, 178):


fluxion of the humours (M&C 161):

The body being affected by the falling damps and other changes in the weather will affect the balance of the humours.

folie circulaire (FOW 148):

Manic depression.

folie de grandeur (TGS 281):

Delusions of grandeur

fons et origo (TMC 91):

The spring and the source.

force hypermécanique (TGS 189):

A vital force, neither physical nor chemical in its nature, which was held to be active in living organisms only. It arose from the Vitalism movement originating in France in the second half of the 18th century.

forceps (NC 116, C/T 156, YA 212):

Small tongs or pincers for grasping, holding firmly, or exerting traction upon objects.

Foundling Hospital (TGS 16):

An institution that supports children who have been deserted by their parents. The London Foundling Hospital was established in 1741.

fractious (DI 198, FSW 302, BATM 184):


fracture (NC 52, WDS 127, BATM 156, 181):

A break, especially of a limb. A simple fracture is a broken bone with unbroken skin.

freemartin (FSW 27):

A sterile female animal, with the internal organs of a male but the external rudimentary organs of a female.

frostbite, frostbitten (FSW 209, NC 102, WDS 219, BATM 177):

Destruction of tissues as a result of freezing, in which ice crystals form, damaging cells by disruption of blood corpuscles and clotting within small blood vessels. If not properly treated, can lead to gas gangrene, requiring amputation.

froward (IM 58, TGS 208):


frowsty (TH 100):

Stuffy, in a hot and stale atmosphere.

fumigation (NC 277):

To treat with fumes of smoke, especially to drive out pests.

furor uterinus (PC 58):

Violent outbursts of anger, presumably from female sexual desire. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (1st ed.) it is “salacity in women, attended with impudence, restlessness and a delirium. It arises from a too great sensibility of the pudenda”.

gag (TGS 29, NC 134):

A piece of cloth tied across a patient’s mouth to stop him crying out during an operation.

Galen (HMSS 119):

Klaudios Galenos (129-216 AD) was a Greek medical practitioner and philosopher.

gallipot (WDS 72, YA 125):

A small pots or jar used for containing medicine or ointment.

game leg (HMSS 165):

A crippled leg.

gangrene, gangrenous, gangrened (PC 335, 348, TMC 210, FSW 292, LM 158, TGS 141, NC 45, YA 97, 123):

Necrosis or death of tissue due to deficient or absent blood supply or infection.

gaol fever (M&C 107, PC 292, DI 144, FOW 10, IM 47, NC 22, BATM 143):


gaseous water from a sulphurous spring (PC 93):

Mineral water, believed to have curative powers.

gasteropod (PC 333):

A snail, or a “water snail” such as a whelk.

gastric impression (TGS 255):

An indentation on the surface of the spleen caused by pressure from the stomach.

gastrocnemius (TGS 221, YA 123):

The largest and most superficial muscle of the calf of the leg.

gelding (TH 56):

A castrated animal.

gilded pills (HMSS 88):

Medicine sweetened to make it more palatable.

glabrous (BATM 84):

Smooth, without hair.

glaucous (HMSS 88, DI 89, IM 96):

Dull, pale green to greyish-blue.

gleet (M&C 215, IM 137, WDS 74, THD 160):

A morbid discharge of thin liquid from a wound or ulcer. Specifically, it is the discharge from a penis when the patient is suffering from gonorrhoea.

gluteus maximus (FSW 291, TGS 221, COM 86):

The buttock muscle.

Godfrey’s Cordial (HMSS 67):

Thomas Godfrey, who died around 1722, created a cordial of opium, sassafras and treacle, which continued to be made long after his death.

gout, gouty (HMSS 86, 105, YA 23):

A disease resulting from a disturbance of uric acid metabolism, characterized by swelling and severe pain, notably in the big toe.

grain (WDS 128):

The smallest English and US unit of weight, equal to 1/5760 of a pound Troy, or 1/7000 of a pound avoirdupois.

grandson bald, stunted, and gibbering, toothless and decrepit (HMSS 200):

The symptoms of syphilis may be passed on to later generations??

gravid (DI 83, SM 336, BATM 204):


great pox (TH 101):

Syphilis, also known throughout Europe from the Renaissance on as the French Disease.

great sciatic (LM 199, 209):

See sciatic nerve.

green physic (PC 392):


greenstuff (HMSS 145, 149):

Green vegetables, used as a treatment for scurvy.

Gregory's cordial (COM 230):

A patent medicine?? (Gregory's powder is a laxative powder containing rhubarb, magnesia, and ginger. Possibly Gregory's cordial is a liquid form of this?)

grey powder (DI 90):

A rarely-used panacea consisting of mercury and chalk.

gripes, griping of the guts (TH 280, NC 132):

Sudden intense pain in the intestines, possibly associated with diarrhoea.

gross humours (TMC 79, DI 92, 290, IM 213, LM 17, TGS 165):

Possibly a thick discharge from a wound. This does not refer to one of Jack Aubrey’s vile clenches.

gross surfeit (BATM 177):


gruel (BATM 23, 242):

A drink of thin porridge.

guaiacum (WDS 75):

The resin obtained from Guaiacum sanctum tree (also known as lignum vitae), native to tropical America, used as a medicine to treat respiratory disorders. It had earlier been proposed as a sweating treatment for syphilis, which had caused Stephen’s friends the Fuggers to try to corner the market for this substance.

gule (TMC 79):


gullet (HMSS 63, TH 181):

The throat or pharynx.

gumma, gummata (PC 335, HMSS 200, TMC 189, TGS 140, 155):

A tumour of syphilitic origin.

gut (TH 118):

Surgical thread made from the intestines on an animal.

Guy’s (LM 123, TGS 110):

A famous hospital in London, founded in 1722.

gynaecological (TH 126):

Relating to diseases of women, especially of the genito-urinary tract.

gynandromorph (PC 465):

Having both male and female characteristics.

haemorrhage (FSW 310):

Bleeding, especially when profuse and uncontrolled, that can lead to death.

hag-ridden (YA 195):

Obsessed or harassed, as by fears.

hamstring (TH 60, NC 34):

To cripple, as by cutting the hamstring tendon behind the knee.

hartshorn (HMSS 353, 354, DI 90):

The aqueous solution of ammonia, a sudorific used to treat fevers. It was also used to revive unconscious patients..

Haslar (M&C 90, PC 436, DI 198, TGS 91):

The Royal Hospital at Gosport in Hampshire, the chief naval hospital in Britain, opened in 1753.

haut relievo (HMSS 39):

A good taste.

head had hit the kerb and his feet were straying wild (FOW 240 - 280):

The effects of concussion are referred to throughout this section, including headache, nausea, balance problems, sensitivity to light or noise, fuzzy vision with difficulty focusing, feeling "not oneself" and concentration problems. Concussion occurs from impact when the head accelerates rapidly and then is stopped, such as when the head slams into a hard surface.

heart-pang (YA 100):

A sudden pain in the heart.

heat-stroke (TH 167):

A condition caused by prolonged exposure to intense heat, resulting in high fever, convulsions or coma.

hellebore (TMC 190, IM 303, LM 277, 280, NC 219, COM 47, 206, BATM 182, 188, 248):

There are several plants with this name - black hellebore (Helleborus niger), false hellebore (Adonis autumnalis or Adonis vernalis), green hellebore (Veratrum viride), white hellebore (Veratrum album) - used as purgatives, heart stimulants or treatments for mental disease..

helleborus niger (TMC 140):

The Christmas Rose; used as a heart stimulant.

hemicrania (LM 55):

A pain that affects only one side of the head.

henbane (YA 24, BATM 25):

A coarse, hairy, foul-smelling poisonous plant of the nightshade family, the leaves of which have narcotic properties.

hepatic (SM 219):

Relating to the liver.

hepatitis (C/T 28):

Inflammation of the liver

hermaphrodite (HMSS 226):

A creature having both female and male sexual organs.

hernia (M&C 90, PC 231, HMSS 113, IM 41, TGS 149, 299, NC 132, COM 185, BATM 216):

A protrusion of an organ through the cavity wall, caused by weakness from debilitating illness, increased interabdominal pressure from lifting heavy loads or excessive coughing. Also called a rupture.

heroic dose (TMC 140, DI 15):

A strong dose.

hiera picra (TGS 165):

"Priestly bitters", a name given to many medicines in the Greek pharmacopoeia but especially to a purgative drug composed of aloes and canella bark, sometimes mixed with honey and other ingredients.

hilum (TGS 255):

A depression on the surface of an organ around the point where vessels or nerves enter or exit.

hip-gout (THD 168):


hipped (TMC 322, FOW 157, LM 47):

In low spirits; depressed.

Hippocratic oath , Hippocrates (HMSS 119, 265, FOW 129, IM 107):

The oath sworn by physicians as a part of their medical school graduation, attributed to Hippocrates, the 5th century BC Greek physician who is considered the father of western medicine. Both the classical and the modern versions have a privacy statement. In the modern version, "That whatsoever you shall see or hear of the lives of men or women which is not fitting to be spoken, you will keep inviolably secret." A body of medical works, Corpus Hippocratum, including the Hippocratic oath, survived to modern times and was part of the course of medical study well into the 19th century.

Hippocratic point (M&C 343):

Unknown?? The Achilles tendon is also known as the Hippocratic tendon, and the Hippocratic manoeuvre is used to restore a dislocated shoulder.

hogs lard (NC 54, YA 124, BATM 73):

Mercury was triturated with this to produce an ointment for treating syphilis. Lard or grease from various animals was used as a base for ointment.

hogweed (BATM 157):

Cytisus scoparius or Scotch broom, a herb having anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. Not to be confused with Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).

hone (M&C 259):

A fine sharpening stone.

hop-pillows (DI 15):

A pillow stuffed with dried hop plants and other herbs, believed to induce sleep.

horse-leech (WDS 137, BATM 177):

A veterinary surgeon.

horse-sized enema (SM 321):

A large enema.

hortus siccus (TH 113):

A dry garden, or herbarium.

hospital ship (FSW 17):

A ship serving as a hospital for the Fleet. The Physician of the Fleet berthed there.

Hulme’s Libellus de Natura Scorbuti (M&C 67):

A book written by Nathaniel Hulme, advocating the use of lime juice to prevent scurvy.

humours, rectify the (TMC 202, WDS 7, 153):

The four humours of the body were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. It was believed necessary to keep the humours in proper balance for good health; hence the need to "rectify the humours." This belief, held from Greek medicine until the 19th century, led to our words for temperament - sanguine or cheerful; phlegmatic or calm, cool, and collected; yellow bile (choler) led to bilious or angry; and black bile to melancholy.

Hunters (FOW 64):

John Hunter (1728-1793) was the Scots-born founder of pathological anatomy in England. His brother, William, with whom he worked, also Scots-born, held anatomy classes and practiced obstetrics in England.

hydatic cysts (C/T 28):

A cyst caused by infection from a larval tapeworm, also called hydatid cysts.

hydropericardium (YA 196):

An excess of water in the pericardial (around the heart) cavity.

hydrophobia (M&C 379, C/T 143):

A symptom of rabies, consisting of an aversion to water and other liquids and a difficulty in swallowing them.

Hygeia (PC100):

The Greek goddess of health.

hyoid (HMSS 195):

A bone at the base of the tongue.

hyperaemia (WDS 127):

A excessive amount of the blood in an organ or part.

hypochondria, hypochondriac, hypochondriacal (PC100, HMSS 159, FSW 96, 108, RM 26, LM 79):

A chronic anxiety over the state of one’s health.

hyponogogue (M&C 90):

Sleep inducing.

hysteria (PC 99, TMC 90):

A mental disorder characterized by emotional outbursts.

iliac crest (PC 437):

The large, prominent portion of the pelvic bone at the belt line of the body.

iliac passion (TMC 140, 141):

An archaic name for appendicitis.

ill breath (HMSS 118):

Foul-smelling breath, a symptom of scurvy.

illicit venery (TGS 189):

Sexual activity not approved by society, particularly adultery.

ill-looking cast (HMSS 56):

A twist or defect in the eye.

imbecility (PC 449, IM 107):

Mental deficiency.

impacted wisdom tooth (LM 79):

A large tooth at the rear of the jaw, unable to emerge from the gum.

impostume (HMSS 140, LM 88, NC 157):

An abscess.

impotence (PC 99):

Inability to perform sexual intercourse.

inanition (M&C 197):

The process of emptying.

incest (PC 256):

Sexual intercourse between two persons commonly regarded as too closely related to marry.

incision (PC 437):

A cut, particularly one made by a surgeon.

incisors (NC 26, 31):

The teeth at the front of the mouth.

inebriation (TMC 324):


inflammation of the lungs (TMC 240):


influenza (RM 227):

An acute, contagious, infectious disease, characterised by inflammation of the respiratory tract, fever, muscular pain, and, often, intestinal disorders.

infusion (LM 257, YA 197):

The liquid extract that results from steeping a substance in water. Also, the slow introduction of a solution into the body through a vein.

inguinal hernia (M&C 215):

A lump or bulge in the scrotum or groin which contains bowel or other abdominal structure which has slipped through from the abdominal cavity.

innards (IM 19):

The internal organs of the body.

innominate artery (HMSS 298):

The large right branch from the arch of the aorta that divides into the right common carotid artery and right subclavian artery.

inspissated (YA 24, 116):

Thickened or reduced to its essential part.

integument (HMSS 95, DI 136):

A covering, especially skin.

intellectuals (PC 135):

Mental faculties.

intemperance (BATM 179):

Indulging bodily appetites to excess; usually relating to drunkenness.

intension (HMSS 138):

The opposite of extension.

intestines (BATM 127):

The part of the alimentary canal between the stomach and the anus.

inward wen (PC 63):

An internal tumour.

ipecacuanha (BATM 89):

A drug prepared from the dried roots of a South American shrub, used as a purgative and emetic. Now known as ipecac.

irascibility (IM 107):


iron (HMSS 74 ):

An element used in medicine, especially to treat anaemia.

iron constitution (HMSS 361):

A robust state of health.

iron water tanks (LM 252):

Around this time, iron water tanks replaced the use of wooden casks for storage of water. Apart from being less liable to leakage, they also meant that seamen were not required to manhandle them, with a resulting decrease in hernias and other injuries.

issue-peas (PC 431):

Small globular objects - as dried peas or wooden beads placed in an abscess or ulcer so as to induce or increase a supporative discharge.

Jack-Pudding (TH 128):

A buffoon who plays tricks.

jactitation (COM 228):

Restless tossing or jerking of the body in severe illness.

jalap (COM 97, BATM 88):

The dried root of a Mexican vine of the morning-glory family, used as a purgative.

James’ powder (DI 308, FSW 93):

“Antiscorbutic” powder invented by Robert James (1705-1776), although it turned out to be ineffective as a remedy for scurvy. It was made from antimony and phosphate of lime.

Javan ague (NC 89):

A malarial fever peculiar to Java??

Jesuit’s bark (RM 51, COM 243):

The medicinal bark of the cinchona; Peruvian bark.

Judas-draught (DI 55):

A false medicine.

juice of figs (YA 116):

A laxative.

khat (TH 182, 216):

The leaves of an African/Arabian plant which have a narcotic effect when chewed.

kidney dish (HMSS 360, FOW 319):

A small metal, kidney-shaped pan, approximately 5" by 10".

kindle, in (FSW 222):


Klopff (TGS 215):

A scientist promoting the “vital principle” theory - probably a fictitious character.

knit (NC 192):

Joined together, especially regarding broken bones.

knocked on the head (IM 51, LM 103, 172):


knock-knees (TMC 69):

A condition in which the legs are bent inwards so that the knees touch.

La Faye (FSW 314):


lacerated (YA 97):

Torn jaggedly.

lachrymation (WDS 127):

Constant and excessive production of tears.

Laennec (THD 152):

René Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec (1781-1835) was a French physician who invented the stethoscope and is generally considered the father of chest medicine. Using a foot-long wooden cylinder that he placed on the chests of his patients, he was able to hear the various sounds made by the lungs and heart. For three years he studied patients¬í chest sounds and correlated them with the diseases found in autopsy. He described his methods and findings in the classic De l¬íauscultation médiate (1819). He made numerous other contributions to the literature of respiratory and heart disease.

lambdoid (YA 202):

The suture that connects the occipital and the parietal bones of the skull

lance (LM 123):

To cut the flesh with a sharp instrument, to ease swelling or to allow a tooth to emerge.

lancet (M&C 259, TH 189, FSW 108, NC 210, BATM 7):

A surgical instrument, usually with two edges and a point, used for bleeding or opening abscesses.

languor (HMSS 264, PC 396):

Faintness or weariness.

Larrey (SM 158, 329):

Domenique-Jean, Baron Larrey (1766-1842) was the chief medical officer of Buonaparte’s armies.

larynx (DI 123):

The upper part of the trachea or windpipe, containing the vocal cords.

lassitude (NC 72):

Physical or mental weariness.

lateral displacement (NC 192):

Sideways misalignment - instead of fore-and-aft - of bones after a fracture.

laudable (DI 91, LM 201, NC 24):

Sound or wholesome.

laudable exudation (HMSS 266):

An expression of sound matter from a body.

laudanum (PC 198, 235, 332, HMSS 57, 374, TMC 243, FOW 22, 128, 198, SM 80, 321, IM 46, 70, 246, TH 312, FSW 153, 154, 204, LM 55, 80, 88, 96, 108, 159, 187, 230, 242, 254, 257, 265, 276, 282, NC 77, 314, C/T 35, TGS 18, 30, 53, YA 125, 222, THD 35, 145, BATM 35, 181):

The alcoholic tincture of opium.

laudanum, 400 drops (PC 86):

The usual does of laudanum was 25 drops, so this is quite excessive.

laughing gas (PC 266):

Nitrous oxide, used as an anaesthetic.

Lavater (TMC 28):

John Caspar Lavater (1741-1801) was a famous Swiss physiognomist.

Lavoisier (NC 273, 276):

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794) was a famous French chemist, scientist and inventor.

Lavoisier’s trephine (FSW 194, 315, 325, 328, 329):

A surgical sawlike instrument for removing circular sections of bone, especially from a skull. Presumably invented by Lavoisier.

lazaretto (HMSS 65, 73):

A hospital for people with infectious diseases.

leather-bound rope (HMSS 272):

A rope to bind a patient but not cause damage to the skin through friction.

leech (DI 15, COM 156, THD 44, 153):

Any of about 650 species of segmented, or annelid, worms of the class Hirudinea. A small sucker, which contains the mouth, is at the anterior end; a large sucker is at the posterior end. All leeches have 34 body segments. Leeches that attack humans belong to the family Gnathobdellidae. Some species have been used medically for centuries; in Europe the use of leeches to drain off blood reached its height of popularity in the 19th century. In addition to H. medicinalis of Europe, the Algerian dragon (H. troctina) was used. Gnathobdella ferox was commonly used in Asia.

leg like a bolster (TH 168):

A swollen leg.

lemon juice (TGS 29):

A dietary supplement used to avoid scurvy.

lemon shrub (IM 158):

A liquor composed of lemon juice and sugar and spirits.

lenitive (TMC 140, 340, DI 15, FOW 112):

Emollient, soothing, mitigating, laxative; any palliative; an application for easing pain; a mild purgative.

lenitives - effect on the spleen (DI 15):

It was thought that the spleen out of balance led one to violent ill-nature or ill-humor, made one irritable and passionately angry - as in "venting one’s spleen" - therefore any soothing was beneficial.

Leopard’s lost her nose - pox (DI 198):

One result of advanced syphilis was that the tissue in the patient’s nose became eroded.

leopard's bane(YA 24):

A plant of the genus Doronicum; a perennial herb.

leprosy (HMSS 23, RM 26, NC 254, BATM 138):

Hansen's disease - an infectious bacterial disease which slowly eats away the body.

lesion (HMSS 76, TMC 168):

An injury or wound.

levator angulae scapulae (TH 278):

A muscle connected to the shoulder blade.

liberal dram (TMC 242):

Generous dose.

ligature (M&C 132, TMC 293, SM 214, IM 246, NC 277, COM 12):

A thread, wire, or cord used in surgery to close vessels or tie off ducts.

lightning, effects of (WDS 252):

These descriptions of the effects of lightning are accurate; lightning striking near the heart can disturb the electrical rhythm of the heart, causing death.

lime - used with coca (FSW 160, 172, NC 225):

Coca leaves were chewed with a ball made from ashes of some plants such as the quinua. The lime contained in those ashes helped release the leaves' alkaloids, also produces a strong degrading of the cocaine molecule.

lime-juice (HMSS 119, 139, 363, 364, DI 271, TGS 29, LM 244):

A dietary supplement used to avoid scurvy.

linctus (WDS 228):

A syrupy medicine meant to be licked up with the tongue, often used to treat coughs and sore throats.

Lind’s Effectual Means (M&C 67):

A book written by James Lind (1716-1794), who wrote widely on nautical medicine.

liniment (BATM 181):

A medicine, usually containing alcohol or camphor, applied to the skin to relieve pain.

linseed (FOW 72):

A variety of flax, grown for oil and grain, considered to be soothing.

lint (M&C 130, HMSS 347, TH 118, FSW 292, 312, TGS 30, NC 134, COM 12):

An absorbent cotton or linen fabric used to dress wounds.

liquescent belly (RM 166):


Liquor Ammoniae Acetatis (IM 208):

A solution of ammonium acetate, used to promote sweating.

lithotomy (PC 344, COM 164, THD 42):

Incision into the bladder for removing stone. See also suprapubic cystotomy and Cheseldon’s lithotomy.

litter (HMSS 271, 351):

A light frame used to carry sick people.

liver (HMSS 225, 226, SM 320, TGS 165, 187, NC 230, YA 30):

An abdominal organ which secretes bile and detoxifies certain poisons.

liver ailments (PC 90, PC 338, C/T 15):

The assumption of that era that not be being well was the result of a disordered liver, just as we now say "it must be a virus."

liver ruined in ten days’ time. (PC100):

Over eating and bad diet was believed to cause liver ailments.

liverish (HMSS 30, TH 43, TGS 16, 166, NC 229, COM 118):

With a disordered liver, especially as a result of drinking to excess.

livid (TMC 297):

Showing a greyish tinge.

loblolly boy or girl (M&C 38, HMSS 247, TMC 194, DI 89, 178, IM 208, TH 282, 283, 312, FSW 177, 203, 222, 291, LM 78, TGS 30, 142, NC 106, 137, 186, 208, 212, 259, 276, COM 2, THD 39, BATM 40, 106, 182):

A person on board a man-of-war who attends the surgeon and his mates, but is generally unskilled in the healing arts. Lob was Middle English for "to boil", and lolly and scouse were once used interchangeably. Therefore the loblolly person was the one who boiled the lolly or the scouse for the sickbay.

looseness (NC 16):


louse (PC 180):

A bloodsucking insect infesting sailors’ hair (Pediculus capitis) or body and clothes (Pediculus vestimenti).

low diet (M&C 302, DI 15, TH 126, TGS 165, 281, NC 241):

A diet involving no meat.

low fevers (HMSS 140):

Fevers not accompanied by high temperatures.

lubricious, lubricity (LM 201, NC 28):

Lewd or lascivious.

Lucatellus’ balsam (PC 481, TMC 140, DI 90, IM 89):

An emollient ointment which could also be taken internally, for wounds and sores, or against coughs. It was coloured red and its main ingredients were wax and turpentine.

Ludolphus’ palsy (PC 480, 481):


lues venera (DI 178):

Venereal disease.

lunatic (PC 347):

A person who is insane.

lupus (HMSS 119):

An ulcerative skin disease.

lycanthropy (YA 236):

A mental disorder in which the patient imagines himself to be a wolf. Also were-wolf.

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Last updated 18 March 2002