Maturin's Medicine R-Z

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.

râle (FOW 175):

An abnormal sound heard accompanying the normal respiratory sounds on auscultation of the chest.

radical measures (HMSS 265, PC 344):

Extreme surgical procedures.

radius-ulna (NC 192):

The bones of the forearm.

radix serpentariae Virginianae (COM 225):

The root of the Virginia creeper.

raise the dead (PC 180):

Maturin's reputation was such that the sailors believed him able to revive patients when all hope was lost.

Ramsden (LM 108):

Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800) was the founder of a business in London which supplied fine optical, nautical and scientific instruments.

receipt (IM 71):

A recipe.

rectified spirits of wine (DI 41):

Distilled alcohol.

red hot iron, cauterizing (PC 392):

Closing of blood vessels in a wound by the application of a very hot object.

Redfern (NC 266, 273-279, 292 ff):

William Redfern (1774?-1833) was a former convict who became a notable surgeon and physician in New South Wales.

redgum (RM 31, NC 212):

A papular eruption or rash incident to young children consisting of red pimples and patches on the skin.

regimen (HMSS 76):

A systematic course of treatment.

relapse (HMSS 105):

To become ill after an apparent recovery.

remission (TMC 92):

Abatement of the symptoms of a disease.

remittents (COM 242):

Abating for a while or at intervals and then returning, as a fever.

renal impression (TGS 189):

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

reopening wounds (DI 271):

In scurvy, the lack of ascorbic acid impairs the maintenance of intercellular ground substance and collagen in muscles and wounds re-open.

requies Nicholai (M&C 319):

A strong sedative.

resection (NC 45, WDS 123):

Removal of part of a bone or organ.

resurrector (DI 104):

Grave robber. Until the Anatomy Act of 1832 authorised the use of unclaimed bodies for teaching purposes, the only corpses legally available were those of executed criminals.

retention of urine (PC 100):

A condition where urine cannot drain from the bladder.

retractor (HMSS 352, 353, DI 308, FOW 112, IM 246, LM 108, C/T 122, 156, TGS 29, WDS 70, COM 12):

An appliance used in surgery to hold back parts that would interfere with the operation.

Rhazes (HMSS 119):

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zarahiyya al-Razi (852-932) was a great Arab physician.

rheumatism, rheumatic (HMSS 86, TMC 93, SM 332):

A disorder of joints or muscles.

rheumatismal pain (PC 449):

Pain associated with rheumatism.

rhubarb (M&C 310, HMSS 249, TMC 100, DI 90, C/T 15, TGS 45, 165, NC 189, COM 118, YA 116, 201, BATM 86, 88, 103, 106):

The rhubarb plant (not kitchen rhubarb but Rheum officinale) was used as a purgative.

rigor (IM 109, NC 133):

Rigor mortis - the stiffening of the body after death.

rigour (HMSS 72):

Rigidity of a muscle.

risus sardonicus (IM 71, 109):

A fixed contraction of the facial muscles, caused by tetanus.

roborative (M&C 90, HMSS 301, TMC 201):

Strengthened, invigorative.

rogering (LM 37):

Participating in sexual intercourse.

rope burns (TGS 149):

Abrasions, particularly on the hands, caused by friction of ropes.

roused out his brains (TMC 296):

A reference to Stephen's treatment of a depressed cranial fracture in which he removed the pressure on the brain.

Royal, Royal Society (THD , BATM 23, 132, 184, 191, 232, 236):

The Royal Society of London for the Promotion of Natural Knowledge, is the oldest scientific society in Great Britain and one of the oldest in Europe, founded in 1660. By the 18th century, the achievements of the Royal Society were internationally famous. Its publication, Philosophical Transactions, begun in 1665, was one of the earliest periodicals in the West. Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley were members. In 1768 the society sponsored a the first scientific expedition to the Pacific, under James Cook, and in 1919 it sent an expedition to photograph the solar eclipse of May 29 from Principe Island in the Gulf of Guinea, which verified EinsteinČ║s general theory of relativity. It gives the Copley Medal annually; it is the most prestigious scientific award in Great Britain. Candidates for membership must be recommended by several fellows who personally attest to the candidateČ║s scientific achievement. Current membership is over 1,000.

rum (PC 437):

Rum was used to intoxicate a patient before surgery.

rupture (IM 137):

A hernia.

sagittal suture (YA 202):

The division between the two parietal bones along the length of the skull.

sailors diseases (HMSS 364):

Venereal diseases.

sal ammoniac (C/T 144):

Ammonium chloride.

salamander (TGS 254):

A small lizard, probably used in Oriental medicine. It was believed to live in fire and have magical properties.

saline (TGS 281):

A solution of common salt in water.

saline enemata (NC 23):

A saline solution was used as an enema.

salivation (HMSS 162, TH 126, NC 185, 186):

Secretion of saliva.

salt sores (WDS 108):

Skin lesions caused by the constant abrasion of the skin by salt grains in clothes, linens, etc.

salve (PC 430, COM 192):

A healing ointment.

sanguine (HMSS 153, TGS 8, 12, 194, NC 55):

Cheerful and confident.

sanguine complexion (TH 40):

Ruddy in appearance.

sarcoma (HMSS 119):

A malignancy of the connective or supporting tissues, such as fat, muscle, nerves, tendons, ligaments, bone or cartilage.

sassafras (RM 51):

A tree of the laurel family; the dried root bark of this tree, infused into tea with health benefits.

satanic boletus (PC 110):

Boletus satanas. An extremely poisonous mushroom.

saturnine (FSW 251):

Having a gloomy temperament.

sauerkraut (LM 244, 245):

Pickled white cabbage, believed to be a remedy for scurvy. This was based on the apparent resistance to the disease in the Dutch navy, in whose diet sauerkraut was a staple.

saw (M&C 67, PC 386, NC 134, 166, C/T 156, WDS 70, COM 12):

A saw was used in surgery to cut through bone.

sawbones (PC 335, 402, HMSS 338, 355):

A surgeon.

scabrous (TGS 167):

Indelicate or salacious.

scalp (HMSS 298):

The skin covering the top of the head.

scalpel (TMC 264, FSW 327, COM 12, BATM 174):

A surgical knife with a short thin blade.

Scarborough (DI 17):

A seaside spa town that offered sea-bathing in addition to other treatments.

sciatic nerve (LM 202):

The large nerve running down the back of the thigh.

sciatica (M&C 26, THD 108):

A syndrome characterised by pain radiating from the back into the buttock and into the lower extremity along its posterior or lateral aspect and most commonly caused by prolapse of the intervertebral disk, the term is also used to refer to pain anywhere along the course of the sciatic nerve.

scoliosis (SM 61):

Lateral curvature of the spine.

scrofulous (HMSS 86, 137):

Relating to tuberculosis of the lymph glands.

scrofulous ears (PC 325):

Infected ears.

scruple (TH 280, LM 270, NC 185, C/T 143):

A unit of weight of about 1.3 grams.

scurvy (M&C 26, PC 481, HMSS 113, 114, 117, 118, 125, 139, 141, 187, DI 271, IM 106, FSW 93, 203, 208, 210, NC 177, 192, 197, 213, WDS 74, THD 110, BATM 5, 172):

A disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency, exacerbated by the scarcity of fresh fruit and vegetables on long voyages.

sea-bathing (TH 137):

Bathing in the sea was considered to have certain therapeutic effects.

sea-sickness (PC 231, 292, HMSS 105, 173, FOW 272, 288, 289):

Dizziness and nausea caused by the motion of a ship at sea.

seat of ease (NC 230, BATM 97):

A lavatory.

secondary resection (THD 43):

A second surgical operation at or near the same site as the original surgery in order to complete or correct the results of the first surgery. Before antibiotics, secondary resection was often necessary especially with amputations.

senile dementia (FOW 149):

Alzheimer's disease or a similar condition.

senna (M&C 310):

A laxative.

sensu stricto (TMC 92):

In the strict sense.

sepsis (RM 47, WDS 25):

A poisoned state caused by the absorption of pathogenic microorganisms and their products into the bloodstream, usually through infection of a wound. Sir Joseph Lister (1827-1912), British surgeon, was the founder of antiseptic medicine and a pioneer in preventive medicine. His principle - that bacteria must never gain entry into a surgical wound - remains the basis of surgery today. His work, in the 1860s, took time to catch on - blood-stained frock coats were considered suitable operating room attire as late as the 1870s, and surgeons operated without masks or head coverings as late as the 1890s.

septum (BATM 200):

The wall between the two nasal cavities, affected by prolonged use of cocaine.

sequalae (PC 335, HMSS 76, DI 155, IM 228, YA 201):

A morbid affection occurring as a result of a previous disease.

Sergeant-Dentist (LM 123):

The word "sergeant" was prefixed to certain designations of office-by-appointment to the Royal Household, going back to the feudal orders established by William the Conqueror; in this case, the official dentist to the Prince Regent.

serricunnium (DI 178):

A form of chastity belt.

set your leg or take it off (HMSS 119):

Repair a break or amputate the limb.

shank (NC 58):

The shin.

shaved head (FSW 196):

Possibly done to a patient so that all their energy would be directed to recovering from their illness.

shaved head, clapped on leeches 2xday, bleed, dose (PC 121):


shears (NC 45):

Scissors used to cut a patient's hair before treating a wound.

ship's barber (FOW 319, FSW 54):

Used as a surgeon's assistant when necessary, possibly harking back to the days of the barber-surgeon??

ship's butcher (THD 55):

Perhaps stationed in sick bay during action as a pair of extra hands and an individual who would not be put off or sickened by blood and gore??

short commons (BATM 177):

Meagre rations. The term comes from the name for food served to students at Cambridge University.

shutter (HMSS 73):

A wooden window cover, which could be used to carry an invalid.

Sick and Hurt Board (IM 70, TGS 101, NC 91, COM 2, THD 26, 71):

The body that administered the medical department of the Royal Navy. Its commissioners were appointed by the Admiralty.

sick bay, sick berth (PC 231, 297, 355, 361, 434, HMSS 122, 137, 139, 140, 150, 166, 185, 266, 331, TMC 96, FSW 150, 176, 197, 222, 251, 291, LM 79, 158, TGS 139, 149, 285, NC 127, 132, 148, 183, 184, 188, BATM 88, 172, 168, 181, 241):

The part of the ship where sick men were kept and treated.

sick leave (PC 394):

Leave from duty while the patient recuperates from illness or wounds.

sick ticket (PC 236):

A docket provided by a surgeon to certify that a patient may be absent on sick leave.

sick-list (PC 430, HMSS 244):

A list of patients being treated.

silk stockings (M&C 326):

A patient wearing silk stockings suffering a wound will have less foreign matter driven into the wound than if wearing stockings made of some other fabric.

similia similibus (BATM 89):

From the Latin similia similibus curantur, meaning "let like be cured by like". The saying was coined by Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician who was the founder of the therapeutic practice of homoeopathy.

simple (FSW 160):

A plant having medicinal properties.

sinews (HMSS 7, 76):

A literary term for muscles.

siriasis (TH 189):


skulking (HMSS 146):

A contemporary term for masturbating.

slime-bath (HMSS 225):

Something like a mud-bath, used for therapeutic purposes??

slime-draught (PC 257, HMSS 264, DI 135, IM 71, FSW 302, NC 185):


sling (PC 241, SM 61):

A cloth support for an injured arm.

slough (TMC 340):

To shed skin.

smallpox (PC 222, NC 22, 207, 234, C/T 24, COM 12, 174):

An acute contagious disease - also known as variola - characterised by pox or pustules on the skin.

smidgeon (TMC 242):

A small amount.

solis deprivatio (PC 84):

Lack of sun. It could be a treatment, to keep the patient out of the sun; and it could be a pallor caused by not getting enough sun. Or it may be Stephen's reaction to being unhappy and needing to get away, so he uses this as an excuse.

sopor, coma, lethargy, carus (TH 116):

These are the stages of unconsciousness - a deep, unnatural state of sleep; a state of unnatural, heavy, prolonged sleep, with complete unconsciousness and slow, stertorous breathing, frequently ending in death; morbid drowsiness or prolonged and unnatural sleep; extreme insensibility, especially the 4th degree of insensibility.

soporific (M&C 302, LM 187, TGS 180):

Sleep inducing.

sordes (HMSS 265, DI 144):

Impure matter, especially collecting around teeth and gums.

sovereign remedy (TMC 202):

An efficacious treatment.

Spanish fly (IM 160):

Cantharides, believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Spanish Influenza (PC 122, 136, RM 237):

A general name for epidemic influenza.

specillum (M&C ):

A stiff wire, inserted in catheters or other tubular instruments to maintain their shape and prevent clogging).

spica bandage (YA 123):

A kind of bandage wrapped back and forth with spiral overlapping around parts of a joint.

spinal cord (LM 209):

A cord of nerve tissue within the vertebrae which with the brain forms the central nervous system.

spirits (HMSS 244):

Temperament or disposition.

spirits of camphor (TH 111):

Used medicinally as a stimulant, a diaphoretic, or as an inhalant.

spirits of salt (HMSS 100):

Diluted hydrochloric acid.

spirits of wine (NC 131):


Splanchnic teratoma (RM 31):

A tumour in the viscera or intestines.

splay feet (TMC 69, COM 198):

A deformity of broad, flat feet, especially those turned outward.

spleen (SM 219, TGS 106, 110, 189, 252, 254, 255, NC 190, YA 30):

An abdominal organ which forms lymphocytes, produces antibodies, helps to destroy worn-out blood cells and filters bacteria and foreign particles from the blood. It was formerly regarded as the seat of certain emotions, including malice, spite, bad temper, melancholy, low spirits, whim or caprice.

splint, splinted, splinting (PC 491, TMC 195, IM 246, FSW 57, 312, NC 50, 52, 53, 137, COM 12, YA 222, BATM 7, 165, 181):

A splint is a rigid support for restricting movement of an injured part, such as a broken bone.

splinter wound (PC 491, HMSS 298, IM 59, NC 137, 139, 157, 232):

Wounds caused by sharp splinters of wood, especially during battle.

spongy gums (DI 271):

A symptom of scurvy.

spots (PC 39):

Eating rich foods was believed to cause skin eruptions.

sprain (NC 54, COM 185):

An injury to a joint, characterised by swelling and temporary disability.

sprung (HMSS 325):


squills (M&C 348):

The root of the sea-onion, Scilla maritima. It had been used as an expectorant and diuretic from classical times.

St Ignatius beans (IM 109):

A bitter tasting medicine, used as a heart stimulant.

stadium (COM 225):

A period or stage or interval, especially in the course of an illness.

steel (HMSS 363, DI 15, FOW 175, IM 108, NC 23, C/T 93):

A general term for iron used medicinally. A tincture of perchloride of iron was commonly known as "steel drops".

sternum (HMSS 347):

The breastbone.

stertor, stertorous (FSW 309, 314, YA 98):

Laboured or noisy breathing.

stinking gladwin (TMC 190):

Spurgewort (Iris foetidissima), used medicinally for stomach-cramps, as an anti-spasmodic generally, and as an infusion helps hysterical and nervous complaints.

stomach pump (FSW 250):

A suction device for removing the contents of the stomach through a tube inserted down the throat.

stone (HMSS 13, 71, TMC 66, TGS 219, NC 116, NC 278):

A British measure of weight, amounting to 14 pounds. It was typically used as a measure of a person's weight.

stone (PC 449, COM 155, 164):

A concretion of minerals and salts formed in hollow bodily organs, such as the kidney or the gall bladder.

stools (PC100):


strait-waistcoat (TMC 242):

A straitcoat.

strangulation (TMC 168):

Constriction of a bodily organ or duct so as to stop circulation or the passage of fluids.

strangury (DI 307):

A disease of the urinary organs characterized by slow and painful emission of urine.

streak of the tarbrush (HMSS 219):

Having a degree of Negroid ancestry.

strong fives (HMSS 267, DI 123, FSW 296):

Another invented disease of Dr Tufts. See marthambles. Apparently meant as a form of severe colic, caused by overeating and drinking and cured by a clyster.

strong gripes (TMC 140):

Intermittent spasmodic pain in the bowels, usually meaning colic pains.

stump (PC 347):

The part of a limb which remains after a larger part is removed, especially by amputation.

stupor (TMC 301):

A state of unconsciousness.

styptic (TH 118):

An agent that constricts the blood vessels, used to stop bleeding in a minor wound.

subclavian (HMSS 347):

Situated below the clavicle.

subsultus tendinum (COM 230):

Irregular jerking of the tendons.

sudation (NC 24):


sudor insignis (TMC 169, 190):

Exemplary sweating.

suffused (HMSS 120):

Spread or flooded.

sui gen (PC 62):

Having a distinct character of its own. Properly sui generis

sulphur (C/T 16):

A chemical element used for the treatment of skin diseases

sulphureous ether (DI 90, SM 211):

A volatile, inflammable fluid obtained by the distillation of alcohol with sulphuric acid. Its anaesthetic properties were noted by Faraday in 1818 and it was first used in surgery in 1842.

sunburn (FOW 84):

Inflammation of skin from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun; sunburn causes fluid loss and can lead to dehydration, in addition to swelling, blistering, peeling, and cracking of the skin. In severe cases, the victim may experience fever, nausea, chills, dizziness, rapid breathing, shock, and loss of consciousness.

sunstroke (HMSS 129, 244, TMC 323, FOW 80, THD 268):

Overheating of the body due to prolonged exposure to great heat without protective measures such as shade, ventilation, increased fluid intake, and other cooling measures. It causes an increase in body temperature that can lead to collapse and death.

superficial circulation (PC 333):

Circulation in the capillaries, the smallest of the blood vessels, closest to the skin.

suppression of the menses (SM 167):

The cessation of menstruation during pregnancy.

suppurating (HMSS 140, YA 97):

Forming or discharging pus; festering.

suprapubic cystotomy (PC 62, 434, DI 85, WDS 180, YA 211, BATM 230):

An incision into the bladder to provide an opening.

surgeon (M&C 37, PC 168, 322, 404, 410, 434, 468, 490, HMSS 136, 176, 351, TMC 194, 210, 293, SM 211, 214, 329, TH 21, TGS 38, 100, 101, 123, 125, 139, 250, NC 9, 21, 23, 101, 127, 235, 239, 274, 278, BATM 3, 181, 188, 228, 236):

Generally, a medical practitioner who treats patients by surgery rather than by other healing techniques. A surgeon was seen at the time to be less skilled than a physician. A naval surgeon on board ship performed the duties of physician, surgeon and apothecary. Until 1805, he ranked with a Master in pay but lower in status. After the reforms of that year, he was a Warrant Officer of wardroom rank.

surgeon's chest (PC 62):

A chest of instruments and drugs. Some drugs were supplied free of charge from 1796 and all from 1804.

Surgeon's Hall (M&C 26, DI 153):

Surgeon's Hall was completed in 1752 for the Company of Surgeons and abandoned in 1796 in favour of a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London - a move that led to the dissolution of the Company and the foundation of the Royal College of Surgeons.

surgeon's mate (M&C 42, PC 257, 491, FSW 53, 58, LM 23, 25, TGS 8, NC 101):

Assistant to the surgeon. After 1805, he was called an assistant surgeon.

surgeon's share (IM 209):

The share due to a surgeon when the value of a prize was allocated to the crew.

Surgeon-major (M&C 180):

The chief medical officer of a regiment, primarily an administrator.

suture (TH 118, YA 212, THD 47):

A thread used to stitch together two body surfaces.

swab (NC 45, 134):

A small piece of cloth used to clean a wound or apply medication.

sweating (TH 137, NC 188):

A treatment which caused a patient to sweat.

sweet-oil (TH 212, NC 279):

Olive oil.

Sydney pox (COM 2):

Possibly a form of syphilis peculiar to the port of Sydney in New South Wales??

syncope (HMSS 185, 298):

A fainting attack.

syphilis, syphilitic (HMSS 125, TH 125, TGS 140, 155, YA 125):

A venereal disease.

Syphilitic Preceptor (DI 51):

Preceptor means a tutor or instructor. Presumably this is a textbook or periodical about syphilis.??

tabes of the inferior members (IM 107):

Wasting of the legs.

Tahiti pox (NC 184):

A form of syphilis peculiar to Tahiti??

take the waters (TMC 20):

To bathe and drink in healing waters, as in a spa resort.

Tar-Water (PC 62, RM 225):

An infusion of pine resin in water, used for chronic catarrhal and urinary affections, for pulmonary affections and as a wash for diseases of the scalp and other chronic affections of the skin. It was originally a native American treatment.

teeth filed (IM 147):

When a little girl's second incisors came in with scalloped edges, it used to be the practice to file the scallops off and make the teeth even, apparently for the looks of it.

tenaculum (M&C 67):

A long-handled, slender, hooked instrument for lifting and holding parts, such as blood vessels, during surgery.

tender gums (HMSS 118):

A symptom of scurvy.

tenesmus (TMC 41, 44, THD 160):

Straining, especially long-continued and ineffective and painful straining, at stool or in urination.

teratoma (PC 63):

A tumour.

tertians (COM 242):

Occurring every other day (i.e. every third day, counting both days of occurrence). The term is usually applied to fever or a disease causing it, especially any of certain forms of malaria; a tertian fever or disease.

tertiary syphilis (FSW 211):

An advanced stage of syphilis.

testy (TH 15):


tetanus (IM 109):

An acute infectious disease, characterized by sustained muscular spasms, also called lockjaw.

tetraplegia (THD 190):

Paralysis of arms and legs; former usage, from the Greek, for what is now called, from the Latin, quadriplegia.

Thebaic tincture (TMC 140, THD 171):

Possibly a medicine containing the musk of the male musk deer, used in India and the Far East as an anti-spasmodic; or possibly a tincture of theabine, a crystalline alkaloid extracted from opium, also called paramorphine.

therapeutic (TGS 203):

Relating to the treatment of disease.

thermometer (THD 120):

The thermometer in use in the early 19th century was a foot long and required 20 minutes to register. The clinical thermometer as we know it was introduced in 1866 by Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt (1836-1925).

thin water gruel (PC 235):

A thin porridge, made by boiling meal in water.

thoracic cage (TMC 82):

The rib cage.

thoracic nerve. (C/T 122):

A spinal nerve emerging just below a thoracic vertebra.

thorax (BATM 63):

The part of the body enclosed by the ribs.

thready uneven pulse (HMSS 264):

A faint irregular rhythm of the pulse.

thrum-mat (HMSS 352):


thrush (RM 31):

A disease, chiefly of infants, characterised by white vesicular specks on the inside of the mouth and throat and on the lips and tongue, caused by a parasitic fungus.

thrust (NC 212):

Probably a misprint for thrush.

thyroid (NC 190):

The endocrine gland consisting in man of two lobes near the base of the neck. It secretes hormones that control metabolism and body growth.

tib and fib (YA 260):

Tibia and fibula - the bones of the lower leg.

tibia (LM 133, TGS 141):

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

tincture (M&C 90, DI 15, SM 80, 321, FSW 129, 172, 292, LM 109, 159, 187, 257, 265, 282, TGS 30, NC 22, 116, YA 197, BATM 35):

A solution, usually in alcohol, of a substance used in medicine.

toadstool (TMC 28):

A poisonous fungus.

tonic (HMSS 363, DI 15):

Relating to healing.

tormina (TMC 140, 168, 169, 189):

Acute wringing pains in the abdomen; colic or gripes.

torpor (TH 143):

A state of lethargy.

torsion (BATM 177):

An injury caused by twisting, as in a sprain.

tourniquet (M&C 130, PC 133, TMC 266, NC 313, COM 12, 97, YA 122, 222):

A surgical instrument, typically a bandage, used to stop or check the flow of blood through an artery by compression.

tow (HMSS 295, 353, IM 25):

Rope fibres, used to clean various things, including children's bottoms.

tract (TMC 168):

A system of organs, glands and other tissues which has a particular function.

Tractatus de Novae Febris Ingressu (DI 85):

The Treatment of the Onset of a New Fever Another of Maturin's lost publications.

transverse fracture (NC 192):

A fracture across a bone.

traverse (PC 437):

To move across.

trepan, trephine, trepanning, trephining (M&C 138, HMSS 119, 298, TMC 296, 297, FSW 194, 313, 325, THD 16, 64):

A trepan or trephine is a surgical instrument having circular, sawlike edges, used to cut out disks of bone, usually from the skull.

trismus (IM 109):

The state of being unable to move the mouth because the jaw muscles are contracted, especially as a result of tetanus.

triturate ( ):

To grind into small particles or a powder, especially for mercury to be used in an ointment to treat venereal diseases.

trochar (M&C 67, DI 106):

An instrument for examining wounds and fistulas, usually with a triangular point, used for exploring tissues or for inserting drainage tubes, as in dropsy.

Trotter (HMSS 119):

Dr Thomas Trotter (1760-1832) was a noted naval physician, who worked hard to improve the health of seamen and the status of naval surgeons.

tumefaction (M&C 269):


tumescence (NC 54):


tumid (SM 167):


tumor, rubor, dolor (SM 61):

The classical symptoms of infection are tumor (swelling), rubor (redness), calor (heat), and dolor (pain).

tumour (RM 17):

An abnormal or morbid swelling or enlargement in any part of the body.

tundish (DI 218):

A funnel.

turgid (TGS 165):

Swollen or distended.

Turkey rhubarb (C/T 16):

A plant, also known as Chinese Rhubarb, the root of which is used to detoxify the liver, and also has antibiotic, anti-microbial, and anti-tumor properties.

turpentine enema (DI 145):

An enema made from turpentine.

turpeth (C/T 143):

The root of a tropical Asiatic and Australian vine, used as a purgative.

twisted ovaries and testicles (TMC 92):

Not a reference to human anatomy, but to the spiral organs in orchids, bent by having a drunken Russian captain fall on them.

ugly, livid countenance (FOW 96):

A greyish-blue, pale face.

ulnar nerve (M&C 138):

The nerve on the inner side of the arm, passing close to the surface of the skin near the elbow. Also associated with the funny bone.

unicorn horn (THD 65):

In ancient and medieval times, it was believed that those who drank from a unicorn's horn would be protected from stomach trouble, epilepsy, and poison. Cups reputedly made of unicorn horn but actually made of rhinoceros horn or narwhal tusk were highly valued in the Middle Ages.

unknown guest (IM 120):

A parasite, eg a tapeworm.

upas tree (FOW 31):

A tree of the nettle order of dicotyledonous flowering plants, related to the fig and also to the hemp, or marijuana, plant. According to legend, falling asleep under a upas tree was fatal. This probably arose from the fact that the latex from the upas tree in Java (Antiaris toxicaria) was used by natives as an arrow poison for hunting.

usual diseases, usual seaman's diseases, (FOW 80, WDS 9, THD 110):

Venereal diseases.

utensil (NC 25):

A delicate term for a chamber pot.

valerian (TMC 190, DI 15):

A medicine derived from a plant of the genus Valeriana used as a stimulant or antispasmodic.

vapours (DI 14):

A depressed mental condition.

venereal disease (IM 106, TGS 139):

A disease such as syphilis or gonorrhoea, transmitted by sexual activities.

venereals, venereal medicines (M&C 91, DI 178, C/T 26, YA 201):

Drugs used to treat venereal diseases.

venerem omitte (PC 387):

Sexual activity prohibited.

Venice treacle (COM 178):

An electuary on a honey or molasses base, formerly used as antidote for poisonous bites or for poisons. Also called orvietan or theriac.

vermiform appendix (TMC 168):

A wormlike pouch extending from the lower end of the caecum.

verminous (IM 47):

Infested with vermin, eg fleas or lice.

vertebrae (LM 199):

The bones which form the spinal column; the backbone.

vessel (PC 392):

A vein or artery.

vicious constitutions of body (TMC 91):

Serious physical conditions arising from mental problems.

vicious habit of body (DI 101, LM 273):

General bad health practices, especially over-indulgence in alcohol, laudanum and sex.

vinegar (NC 208):

Used as an antiseptic.

virgoes intactoes (IM 287):

Women who have not had sexual intercourse.

viscera (TGS 188):

The large internal organs of the abdomen.

visceral humours (PC 262):

The digestive system.

vital principle (TGS 215):

A force, neither physical or chemical, believed in many cultures to be the essence of life.

vitals (PC 437, IM 20, 143):

Bodily organs.

walking cases (HMSS 141):

Patients who are not so ill that they cannot walk.

Ward's Pill, Ward's Drop (M&C 26, HMSS 76):

Joshua Ward (1685-1761) was famous for his pills which were a mixture of antimony and balsam and were touted as cures for many ailments. His drops were made of the same mixture, with wine added.

water cure (M&C 26):

The water cure was the invention of Vincent Preissnitz of Silesia, who recovered from injuries sustained in an accident by a regimen of applying wet compresses and drinking amounts of water.

water-gruel (FSW 107):

Thin gruel.

Welsh linen bandage (COM 97):


Welsh wig (WDS 232):

A round knitted cap.

were-bear (HMSS 197):

A person believed to be able to assume the form of a bear.

wheals (C/T 199):

Ridges or marks raised on the skin, as from a flogging. Also spelled "weals".

whip a man's skull off (PC 284):

A reference to Maturin's trepanning operation.

whipping off of a leg (TMC 119):

Amputation of a leg.

Willis, Dr (TGS 271, 280):

Francis Willis (1718-1807) was an expert on mental disorders, who had once treated King George III.

Winchester (DI 90, IM 208):

A large cylindrical bottle with a narrow neck for transporting chemicals.

wind-sail (TGS 285):

A sail positioned in such a way that it directed air to the sick berth.

witch-doctor (RM 37):

A medicine-man possessing supernatural powers.

wits . . . astray (TMC 58):

Mentally defective.

wizened (HMSS 133):

Shriveled or dried up.

wormed (DI 177):

Treated for internal parasites.

worms (HMSS 119, 125, TGS 273):

Internal parasites.

wrench (IM 31):

An injury to a limb, caused by twisting.

yellow bile (C/T 15):

See choler

yellow fever, yellow jack (M&C 26, PC 444, HMSS 250, DI 127, FSW 59, RM 46, NC 22, COM 202, 225, BATM 134):

An acute infectious disease of tropical and subtropical climates, characterised by fever, haemorrhages, vomiting of blood and jaundice. It was the first human disease identified as caused by a virus. It was first reported in the Antilles in 1635, and a vaccine was eventually developed by Max Theiler in 1926.

Yellow Plague (NC 75):


Zwingerius (IM 58):

One of a famous family of Swiss physicians.

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Last updated 14 February 2008