Some Definitions


While pouring over old Confederate Pension Applications, Service Records, and newspapers you quickly learn that doctors back in the day used expressions to describe various maladies which today are called something different altogether. I began a list of these terms which has become lengthy enough to become a handy reference tool and a section unto itself. If you have more to add to this list, drop me a line at

Anasarca: generalized massive edema.

Anchylosis: A stiffening of the joints.

Ankylosis: Immobility and consolidation of a joint due to disease, injury, or surgical procedure.

Apoplexy: stroke: a sudden loss of consciousness resulting when the rupture or occlusion of a blood vessel leads to oxygen lack in the brain.

Ascites: Fluid in the abdomen.

Bilious Fever: Fever caused by liver disorder.

Catarrh: Inflammation of a mucous membrane, especially of the respiratory tract.

Colitis: Inflammation of the lining of the large intestine.

Debilitas: Weakness or feebleness.

Dispepsia: Indigestion.

Dropsy: Edema: swelling from excessive accumulation of serous fluid in tissue.

Erysipelas: a bacterial skin infection that usually affects the arms, legs, or face, characterized by shiny, red areas, small blisters, and swollen lymph nodes.

Fistula: an abnormal passage, opening or connection between 2 internal organs or from an internal organ to the surface of the body.

Icterus: Commonly referred to as jaundice. A yellowing of the tissues, usually as a result of abnormal liver function.

Inguinal Hernia: A condition in which soft tissue — usually part of the intestine — protrudes through a weak point in the groin, where the abdomen meets the thigh.

Intermittent (and Remittent) Fever (febris intermittens and febris remittens): Illness marked by episodes of fever with return to completely normal temperature; usually malaria.

La Grippe: An unusually severe and deadly strain of influenza, a viral infectious disease.

Neuralgia: A sharp, shooting pain along a nerve pathway.

Orchitis: Inflammation of the testicles.

Pellagra: Literally rough skin; clinical syndrome due to deficiency of niacin (nicotinic acid) characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia.

Pyaemia: multiple abscess occurs as a result of pus-producing bacteria circulating in the blood stream. These can result in small abscesses throughout the body.

Rheumatism: any painful disorder of the joints or muscles or connective tissues.

Rubeola: measles; an acute and highly contagious viral disease marked by distinct red spots followed by a rash.

Scrofula: Tuberculosis of the lymph glands.

Tertian Ague: Fever one day in every three.

Typhoid: Serious infection marked by intestinal inflammation and ulceration; caused by Salmonella typhosa ingested with food or water.

Variola: Smallpox.

Vulnus Sclopeticum: Relating to a wound caused by a gunshot.

White Swelling: Tuberculosis of the bone.