Medical terminology

Already since long times, physicians are known by their very embarrassing and mysterious medical terms. Caput Medusae, Arcus Senilis, Tinea Corporis, Placenta Praevia, …? Should studying medicine be so complicated? The answer is very easy and interesting as well. It is Latin words and names that are often used in the medical terminology. The student has to look for the meaning of these Latin words in order to appreciate their sense and inspiration. The medical terms are used everywhere almost unchanged and thereby rendering communication among doctors worldwide as easy as possible. There could be also some medical and scientific terms in other languages such as Greek. The tip is to always look for the meaning of any medical and scientific term so that you will not easily forget it and know also more about the origins of the medical and scientific knowledge.


About the origin of Microbiology


The vital force or vitalism mentioned for Wöhler meant, at that time, also that living organisms can arise spontaneously from nonliving matter (e.g. flies on putrid meat and microorganisms in broth), i.e. theory of spontaneous generation. Noted chemists like Wöhler did not know the role of microorganisms during the change of sugar to alcohol, i.e. fermentation, but rather saw it as a mere chemical change that my require oxygen to activate some vital force. It took several decades to definitely discredit the theory of spontaneous generation in the 19th century by the work of Louis Pasteur after the pioneering study to research this theory by Lazzarro Spallanzani in 1768.

Although microorganisms could be seen by the aid of microscope in the 17th century by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, it was not until the 19th century that microbiology began to develop as a truly scientific discipline. Pasteur established that living microorganisms are responsible for the chemical changes that occur during fermentation and meanwhile discovered that some microorganisms carry out anaerobic metabolism, i.e. in absence of air, or more specifically in absence of molecular oxygen.

During the same period of Pasteur’s studies, Robert Koch was developing methods for growing individual types of microorganisms in the laboratory. These pure culture methods permitted him to establish the relationship between a microorganism and an infectious disease like anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera, i.e. the germ theory of disease, which was previously proposed by Koch’s mentor, Jacob Henle, at the University of Göttingen.


–          Ronald M. Atlas, Principles of Microbiology, 1. edition, 1995, Mosby-Year Book, Inc.

–          Online Wikipedia.

A note on the emergence of Biochemistry


Human knowledge is cumulative in nature so that siblings inherit knowledge and experiences from their parents and ancestors. However, it is not until those unfounded myths and ideas are replaced by evidence-based information and concepts that our lives improve and advance. This statement is correct for the “phlogiston” and the “vital force” theories that would – if not debunked by Lavoisier and Wöhler, respectively – stuck our perception for chemistry up till now.

Lavoisier (1743 – 1794) could show in hand of self made equipments such as relatively fair balances that the mass of reactants must equal that of products in a given chemical change, i.e. law of conservation of mass. In this way defeated Lavoisier the very popular idea in his time that matter could be gained or lost during chemical reaction as a vague concept named phlogiston was accused for this argument. Notably during analysis of the combustion phenomenon, Lavoisier had, in the contrary, constructed his experiments so that all the materials could be accounted for during and after the reaction. By this law deserved Lavoisier the name as father of modern chemistry. Wöhler (1800 – 1882) could for the first time synthesize urea (an organic substance known to happen in living organisms only, i.e. in vivo) from inorganic substances, namely ammonia and cyanic acid, in the laboratory, i.e. in vitro. This achievement by Wöhler demolished the idea that organic substances can happen only inside living organism thanks to a mysterious vital force. By this way opened Wöhler a wonderful discipline to courageously study and investigate the matter of the living world, i.e. Biochemistry.

It came then to realize that the matter of the livings not only can be reliably studied by the same means as exactly as the nonliving matter could be but also it obeys the same rules and laws of the nonliving matter. Such fact was founded by some physicists such as Bohr (1885 – 1962), Schrödinger (1887 – 1961), and Max Delbrück (1906 – 1981). Delbrück grounded a group called the Phage Group that believed that their bacteriophage model (bacterial virus) bears much hope to unravel crucial rules in studying the genetic material. Again, we are at the door of a new fascinating world of Molecular Biology.

After this very brief introduction we would see that Biochemistry is a relatively new discipline that concerns everything about living matter at the level of molecules and atoms. We owe our knowledge in Biochemistry to chemists and physicists, as mentioned above, and to biologists as well. The generalization by Schleiden and Schwann in 1839 that all living organisms are made of small structural and functional units called cells, i.e. the cell theory, has made possible all subsequent progresses in our Biology and Biochemistry. It is then worthy noting that none of the scientific disciplines is independent of the others, e.g., when physicists ground for Molecular Biology and mathematicians for Biostatistics and Gene Banks and Bioinformatics.

Useful references:

–          TA Brown, Genetics, a molecular approach, 3. Edition, Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd.

–          Online Wikipedia.

Latin for physicians (adjectives)

Latin adjectives

Reference: دكتور محمد حسن وهبه، قواعد اللغة اللاتينية، 1990





acer, acris, acre

حاد، عنيف

  mollis, e

رخو، طري، لين

acutus, a, um

حاد الطرف، مدبب

  mortalis, e

مميت، فاني

albus, a, um


  multiformis, e

متعدد الأشكال

altus, a, um

عالي، عميق

  mutabilis, e

متردد، متلون، قابل للتغيير و التبديل

aureus, a, um

ذهبي، من الذهب

  neuter, tra, trum

لا أحد من الإثنين

bonus, a, um

طيب، جيد، حسن

  niger, gra, grum


brevis, e


  obscurus, a, um

معتم، مظلم، غير مؤكد، مشكوك فيه

caecus, a, um


  occultus, a, um

سري، خفي، مختفي

candidus, a, um

أبيض، صاف، نقي

  omnis, e

كل، جميع

dexter, era, erum


  opertus, a, um

مغطي، غير مكشوف، سري

exterus, a, um

خارجي، ظاهري، غريب

  par, paris

مساو، ند، مشابه

gravis, e

هام، خطير

  parvus, a, um

صغير، ضئيل

immunis, e

معفي، مستثني، حر، أناني

  perniciosus, a, um

مدمر، مضر، مؤذي

inferior, ius

ردئ، خسيس، وضيع أفعل تفضيل

  prior, prius

سابق، صفة أفضل تفضيل

intestinus, a, um

داخلي، باطني

  profundus, a, um

عميق، مظلم، غامض

ipse, a, um

نفس، صفة توكيد

  proximus, a, um

قريب جدا، تالي، تابع

longus, a, um

طويل، بعيد

  rectus, a, um

منتظم، قياسي، مباشر، مستقيم، أمين، صادق

magnus, a, um

كبير، عظيم

  rotundus, a, um


malus, a, um

ردئ، سئ، شرير

  sapiens, entis

حكيم، عاقل

medius, a, um

متوسط، وسط

  senex, senis

شيخ، كبير السن

Latin for physicians (nouns 1)

Latin nouns (1)

Reference: دكتور محمد حسن وهبه: قواعد اللغة اللاتينية، 1990





 adulescens, entis

 شاب، يافع

 catena, ae

سلسلة، رباط، لجام

 aether, eris

 أثير، هواء


مخزن، صومعة

 ala, ae




 anima, ae

 روح، نفس، حياة

 cera, ae


 animal, alis


 cerebrum, i

مخ، عقل، فهم

 antrum, i

 كهف، مغارة

 clavis, is


 anulus, i

 خاتم، حلقة

 cognitio, onis

فكر، تصور، رأي

 anus, us


 collega, ae

زميل، رفيق

 apparatus, us

 إعداد، تجهيز

 collis, is


 aqua, ae


 colonus, i

مزارع، فلاح

 argentum, i


 color, oris


 argumentum, i

 جدل، مناظرة، محاورة

 conclave, is

حجرة، غرفة

 ars, artis


 copia, ae

وفرة، كثرة

 artus, us

 طرف، عضو

 cor, cordis


 aurum, i


  cornu, us

قرن، جناح الجيش

 brachium, ii


 corpus, oris

جسم، جسد

 canis, is


 cortex, icis

لحاء الشجر، قشر

 canna, ae

عصا، قصبة، بوصة

 dementia, ae

حماقة، رعونة، جنون

 caput, capitis

رأس، عاصمة، منبع


أنا – ضمير المتكلم

 castellum, i

حصن، قلعة

 equus, i


Latin for physicians (numbers)

1) Latin numbers

Reference: دكتور محمد حسن وهبه: قواعد اللغة اللاتينية، 1990

 العدد الترتيبي

 الرمز الروماني

 العدد الأصلي


 primus, -a, -um


 unus, una, unum


 secundus, -a, -um


 duo, duae, duo




 tres, tres, tria






































 tertius decimus




 quartus decimus




 quintus decimus




 sextus decimus




 septimus decimus
















On teamwork

Good doctors are good team players, because health care is complex, and nobody knows everything or how to relate to every patient and his or her unique needs. Because we are all fallible, we all see many examples of poor teams, where bad communication, power struggles, and personality clashes lead to poor outcomes. Stress, overwork, and resource restrictions contribute to this, but not inevitably. So it is worthwhile, at the outset of this journey through medicine, to commit oneself to being a good team member. 3 rules help; (1) All members are valuable; none is irreplaceable, and members are valued for who they are, not just for the resources they bring. (2)’Innocence is no excuse’- ie you may not be ’to blame’ for a group’s malfunction but in the end each member is responsible for everything. (3) Every member needs encouragement. Just how important this is, is shown by this comment from a well-known statesman: “He was impossible. It wasn’t that he didn’t attend to his work. But his manner brought into conflict with everybody… When the crisis came, and the whole truth had to come out, he laid the blame on us: in his conduct there was nothing, absolutely nothing to reproach. His self-esteem was so strongly bound up, apparently, with idea of his innocence, that one felt a brute as one demonstrated, step by step, the contradictions in his defence, and, bit by bit, stripped him naked before his own eyes. But justice to others demanded it. When the last rag of a lie had been taken from him, and we thought there was nothing more to be said, out it came with stifled sobs.

‘But why did you never help me? You knew that I always felt you were against me. And fear and insecurity drove me further and further along the course for which you now condemn me. It’s been so hard- everything. One day, I remember, I was so happy: one of you said that something I had produced was quite good-‘

So, in the end, we were, in fact, to blame. We had not voiced our criticisms, but we had allowed them to stop us from giving him a single word of acknowledgment, and in this way had barred every road to improvement. It is always the stronger one who is to blame.”

Reference: Longmore M, Wilkinson IB, Davidson EH, Foulkes A, Mafi AR: Oxford Handbook Of Clinical Medicine, 8. Edition; Prologue to clinical medicine: Dag Hammarskjöld on teamwork.