Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine

Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine

concise_dictionary_modern_medicineA student of the health professions soon realises that the standard (read, big) medical dictionaries are pretty useless affairs. Whilst the 100,000 or so entries corralled by either the Stedman’s or Dorland’s medical dictionaries may sound impressive, they rarely provide more than a line or two of information—which most reasonably bright people know already, or can tease out of the word or phrase itself, assuming they have a rudimentary knowledge of  Greek and/or Latin roots.

But the opposite end of the spectrum is equally problematic. The “logo-naut” who drills down on a term can unintentionally pop out in China saddled with far too much, or even unrelated, information. What’s needed in the marketplace is a medical dictionary written by a doctor that provides Goldilocks (that’s you) with porridge that’s just right, and which includes the newer terminology.

I published this collection with McGraw-Hill in 2006 to fill the gap between too little and too much information. It is the first new major dictionary to be released in the last 70 years (discounting the Wiley’s International Dictionary of Medicine and Biology, which was published in 1986 and died in the first edition).

This work was designed from the ground up to address many of the issues that make the bigger products (Dorland’s, Stedman’s and Taber’s) less useful and less user friendly. It is written by a doctor for doctors.  

It was gratifyingly well-received as a paper product by the targeted professional student and junior doctor audience. Its popularity expanded to reach a wider public from allied health professionals including nurses, physical therapists and medical transcriptionists to generic logophiles. Given that The Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine contains a cornucopia of useful terms that aren’t in the big medical dictionaries, I view it as a necessary supplement to either the Stedman’s or Dorland’s…which students may soon find make excellent doorstops or add just enough height to junior’s booster seat so he can fling mashed potatoes from eye level.

While I have revised The Concise–addressing all of the issues raised in one particular book review–paper dictionaries are headed towards extinction—I’ll let someone else switch off the lights at the port when that last ship sails from the harbour.  This edition thus straddles the divide between the fading paper and the burgeoning electronic worlds of medical lexicography.

In response to the sea change in delivering this genre of information, the next edition of The Concise will be bigger–I’m guessing at this point, somewhere between 65,000 and 75,000  entries–and should be available as an iPad product sometime…

hopefully soon…whatever that means…  

I ask the reader who stumbles on the occasionally bumpy syntax in this work to be gentle, as I’m addressing everything at the database level. I take it for granted that the average reader using this work will know “standard” abbreviations–e.g., CSF, WBCs, RBCs, Hb, Hct and so on.  Call it my Eurotrash-in-training snobbery or blame it on the three semesters I spent studying in Berlin, but EKG stands as electrocardiogram and electrocardiography; let the lexicographers wriggle and writhe. 

The below link has a cover, the introduction, and a (nearly) complete list of terms found in the book.

The below link takes you to iTunes to get a sample or buy a copy

Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine Book Review 

Superb medical dictionary 20 Oct 2010  by David Snead

A really authoritative book, which works well in the digital format. Entries are detailed, informative and up to date. One of the nice features is the inclusion of so many abbreviations, which enables the user to easily navigate through medical jargon. This text should make it to many doctors electronic platforms as a really useful every day information resource

A great reference – includes diseases, symptoms, treatment options, medical careers, and much more.


Most lexicographers compile or edit dictionaries; JC Segen, MD, writes them.

A pathologist with a passion for informatics and an indefatigable collector of stray nuggets and arcane factlets, Dr Segen has produced another cornucopia of medical infobites cast in his trademark staccato style. His latest dictionary defines not only formal terminology but also jargon, neologisms, casual speech, and brand names pertaining to both the basic sciences and clinical medicine, with special attention to current topics in molecular biology, public health, medical education, legal medicine, alternative medicine, and professional practice issues.

Like earlier works by this author, the book deals with countless topics that can’t be found in other reference sources: black patch delirium, contragestion, good death, hungry bones syndrome, lazy pituitary, Martha Stewart disease, Old Sparky, one-eyed vertebra, Panama Red, rave, scut work, Seinfeld syncope, tape booger, wrecking ball effect. And unlike dictionaries that limit themselves to a standard core of formal terminology, this one affords hours of entertaining and instructive leisure reading. The author’s individual touch and wry humor appear everywhere. He defines cosmetic surgery as “Plastic surgery designed to sculpt an Adonis or Venus from lumps of mortal clay” and surgical scrubs as “the universal uniform of those daring men and women of action, the surgeons.” One feature of Ménière’s disease, he tells us, is “profound hearing loss in one or more ears.”

The dictionary presents succinct surveys of expected topics such as angiotensin II receptor antagonist, cocaine, cystic fibrosis, deep vein thrombosis, hypereosinophilic syndrome, infective endocarditis, intussusception, necrotizing enterocolitis, paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria, pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, wart, and Wegener’s granulomatosis. Tables enhance the text on some subjects, including AIDS, depression, end-of-life care, infanticide (diagnosis of), inflammatory bowel disease, lasers in medicine, postgastrectomy syndrome, serum protein electrophoresis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and tick. Many entries are cyclopedic in format, presenting information under several headings.

John H. Dirckx, MD, Reviewer Dayton, Ohio Book and Media Reviews, JAMA. (Journal of American Medical Association)