Like many professions, the field of medicine has developed its own terminology—its own secret lingo so to speak, with medical names often having Greek or Latin roots. Not surprisingly, reading about medicine can sound “all Greek” to lay people—and the complicated words can make relatively minor conditions and normal bodily functions sound more ominous than they are. Here are five examples from topics we’ve covered in recent years, followed by the simpler, more straightforward names by which you likely know them. Perhaps you remember what they are—or can figure them out from our hints.
Hint: You’re likely to become aware of this if you haven’t eaten in a while.
From the Greek borborugmó, meaning gurgling or rumbling, the noises you hear—which actually originate in the intestines, not the stomach—indicate that things are moving in the digestive tract as they should be.
Hint: This lump can be an eyesore, literally and figuratively.
Derived from the Latin hordeolus (hordeum meaning "barley” and ulus meaning it has the appearance of), this infection—which results in a lump that might resemble an individual grain of barley—occurs when bacteria get into an oil or sweat gland in the eyelid.
Hint: You may experience this when you are cold, frightened, or have an emotional experience.
Horripilation comes from the Latin horrere (“to stand on end”) and pilus (“hair”), and the phenomenon occurs when the tiny muscles at the bottom of hair follicles contract. In furry mammals, this causes hairs to “stand on end,” making the animal appear larger to scare off predators. In humans, it is a “vestigial reflex” (it no longer serves a purpose) and instead just makes skin look temporarily bumpy and rough.
Hint: Most people will develop them as they get older, especially if they are fair-skinned and have had a lot of sun exposure.
From the Latin lens (lentils), lentigines are flat, well-defined skin discolorations that can grow to an inch in diameter, sometimes combining with other spots so they look even larger. Age spots are harmless, though they make skin look older.
Hint: You may have had one after a big celebration.
From the Norwegian word kveis (“discomfort following overindulgence”), this is your body’s response to the breakdown products of alcohol, with symptoms such as headache, dry mouth, nausea, muscle aches, and dizziness.