60+ Handy English Medical Vocabulary Terms for Sticky Situations
Doctors use some strange words.
You don’t need to be a doctor or have an expert medical vocabulary for day-to-day survival, but it’s still important to know basic English medical terms.
This guide will help teach you some of the basics, as well as some advanced concepts, too.
- Why Learn English Medical Vocabulary?
- Learn the Basics: Body Parts
- Common Medical Words to Help You at the Doctor or Hospital
- Learn Adjectives That Describe Systems and Areas of the Body
- Identify Different Types of Doctors
Why Learn English Medical Vocabulary?
It could save your life. It’s all about your health. These English medical vocabulary will help you know what kind of doctor to see.
But most importantly, you’ll be able to accurately describe your problem or condition, so the doctor will know how to treat you. You might need to know these terms even when you aren’t at the doctor’s office. If you know the right terms, you’ll be able to figure out what medicines or vitamins to take to keep you healthy.
Knowing medical terms can help in your career too! If you have an interest in medicine, but haven’t considered a job in the medical field, now is the time to do it. There are so many different jobs that can use folks with medical knowledge.
You could do medical writing, become a medical technician, a medical translator or (of course) a nurse or doctor. All of these jobs will require professional English and knowledge of certain vocabulary words.
People are always going to get sick, so the medical industry isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s a great field to enter if you want the security of knowing that your job will be around for a long time.
Lastly, if you simply love medical shows (like “Grey’s Anatomy”), learning medical words in English can help you better understand what the show is talking about!
Learn the Basics: Body Parts
Let’s begin with the most basic part of your health: the different body parts and organs. Believe it or not, it’s quite possible these words will come up in everyday conversations in English.
For example, if your friend asks you whether or not you’re feeling well, you can confidently reply, “My stomach hurts.” Or, if a coworker says they’ve been having heart problems, you’ll know exactly what they’re referring to.
- Skeleton — This refers to the bones your body is made up of, it’s the framework that supports your body.
- Brain — The most important organ in your body. It’s protected by your skull and controls all of your thoughts and movements.
- Heart — The other most important organ of the body. This is located in your chest and pumps blood throughout your body.
- Lungs — You have two lungs underneath your ribs. They help breathe in air and keep it in your body.
- Liver — Your liver is located on the right side of your body, beneath your lungs. It helps clean out bile (liquid that helps digestion) and other toxins in your body.
- Stomach — The stomach is located on the right side of your body, next to the liver. It’s where the food you eat gets digested.
- Small intestine — This organ is located underneath the stomach and absorbs nutrients and minerals from your digested food.
- Large intestine — From the small intestine, digested food travels to the large intestine, which helps furthers the digestion process and stores water.
Common Medical Words to Help You at the Doctor or Hospital
There’s a special medical term for almost everything, including certain body parts or conditions. Learn these to become more medical-savvy and also improve your fluency overall.
For example, if someone says, “My daughter’s arm was fractured during the game, so we took her to the hospital where they put a cast on it,” you’ll know exactly what they mean.
- Abdomen — A fancy way of referring to the area of the body that has your stomach and other digestive organs.
- Ambulance — This is a special kind of truck that brings patients to the hospital when they need help.
- Bandage — A strip of material used to cover or protect an injured part of the body.
- Bilateral — Something (like a disease or injury) that affects both sides of the body.
- Cancer — This is a condition where abnormal cells form and grow on or within the body. In many cases, it can disrupt your organs and other bodily functions.
- Cast — Have you ever broken your arm? A cast is a hard type of bandage that’s used to support and protect a broken bone.
- Colon — This is another name for the large intestine.
- Crutches — Two long sticks used to support someone who cannot properly walk because of a leg or foot injury.
- Diagnosis — When a doctor or specialist examines your symptoms and identifies an illness or other health problem.
- Emergency — This is when someone’s injury or illness is so bad or life-threatening that they need immediate medical attention.
- Extremity — The part of a limb (arm or leg) that is farthest from the torso. In other words, your hands and feet.
- Fever — This is when your body temperature is too high.
- Flu — This is short for influenza, which is a very contagious virus characterized by fever, body aches, congestion, coughs and more.
- Fracture — A fracture is a fancy way of saying a break or crack in someone’s bone.
- Hernia — A condition where part of an organ protrudes through the muscle that surrounds it.
- Incision — A cut made in someone’s skin or flesh during surgery.
- In-patient — A patient who stays at a hospital to get treated.
- Lesion — An area in an organ or tissue that has received damage from an injury or disease, such as a wound or tumor.
- Operation — This is another name for a surgery (see below) or a similar procedure.
- Organs — These are the parts of your body that perform vital functions needed to live, such as your heart, stomach, liver and so on.
- Out-patient — A patient that receives treatment outside of a hospital, like at a regular doctor’s office.
- Pain — We’ve all experienced this at some point in our lives. Pain is feeling uncomfortable because of a physical injury or illness.
- Physical — This word has two medical definitions. It could mean relating to the body (for example, “she felt physically weak”) or could it could mean a yearly medical examination by a doctor.
- Prosthesis — An artificial body part replacement.
- Scar — A mark left on the skin or body from an injury.
- Surgery — The treatment of internal injuries or disorders by cutting open the body and removing or repairing the damaged part.
- Syringe — This is another name for a needle. These are used to draw blood from someone or inject them with something, such as a vaccine (see below).
- Thermometer — A device used to take someone’s temperature to see if they have a fever.
- Tumor — This is related to cancer. It’s a swelling part of the body caused by abnormal cells.
- Vaccine — Do you get a flu vaccine every year? This is a substance that helps prevent a disease or virus.
- Vomit — A common phrase for this is “throw up.” It’s when you feel sick and expel the food that was in your stomach through your mouth.
- Wheelchair — A chair with wheels used by people who can’t walk.
- X-ray — An X-ray is when the doctor takes a picture of your bones to see if they’re broken, damaged or injured.
Learn Adjectives That Describe Systems and Areas of the Body
There are many different types of doctors, body parts and conditions that fall into different categories. Knowing these words would be helpful so you that can always know the area of the body being discussed. If you want to further practice these words, it can help to see them in use. Videos like the authentic ones on the FluentU language learning program can be a good way to see words in use by native English speakers. You can also make flashcards of each word, in this program or any of your favorite flashcard-making apps.
So if you hear someone say “cardiovascular,” you’ll understand they’re talking about something to do with the heart, blood vessels and blood. That being said, let’s go over this list of common medical adjectives.
- Cardiovascular — Having to do with your heart, blood vessels and blood.
- Coronary — Relating to the arteries that surround your heart and supply it with blood.
- Gastrointestinal — This is a fancy way to refer to body parts that relate to your stomach or intestine, including your esophagus, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver and gallbladder.
- Integument — This refers to your hair, nails and skin.
- Muscular — This term is pretty straight-forward. It means your muscles and tendons.
- Nervous System/Neurological — This adjective relates to your brain and other systems that control your body, like your spinal cord, nerves and sensory organs.
- Respiratory — These parts of your body help you breathe, such as your nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs.
- Skeletal — Anything to do with your bones, skeleton and joints.
- Sensory — Do you notice the word “sense” in this word? It has to do with your five senses and their respective body parts, including your eyes, ears, nose, skin and mouth.
- Urinary — This term refers to body parts that control your urine, like the kidneys or bladder.
- Vascular — This word pertains to your blood vessels.
Identify Different Types of Doctors
Because there are so many weird medical terms, doctors in special fields have weird names too. Sometimes even fluent English speakers get confused about which doctor to see. For example, a doctor that treats foot or ankle conditions is called a “podiatrist,” which sounds nothing like “feet.”
Below is a list a of common doctors who treat different problems and diseases and have pretty odd names. Make sure to learn them so you’ll know what kind of doctor to see and get the right kind of advice.
- Allergist (immunologist) — Achoo! This is a doctor who treats allergies.
- Cardiologist — A doctor who treats hearts and heart disease.
- Dermatologist — If you have bad breakouts, you would need to see this kind of doctor, who specializes in skin.
- Gastroenterologist — This is a doctor who treats the stomach and digestive organs.
- Neonatologist — Many married couples visit these because this doctor cares for infants and babies.
- Neurologist — A doctor specializing in brain, spinal cord and nervous system diseases.
- Obstetrician — Expecting mothers visit this doctor because they treat pregnant women.
- Oncologist — A doctor who’s an expert in cancer.
- Ophthalmologist — When you need new prescription glasses, you visit this doctor because they specialize in the eyes.
- Otolaryngologist — An ear, nose and throat doctor.
- Pediatrician — A doctor who cares for young children.
- Podiatrist — A doctor who treats feet and ankle injuries or conditions.
- Psychiatrist — This is a doctor who treats mental illnesses and helps people with depression or similar problems.
- Pulmonologist — A doctor specializing in lungs.
- Rheumatologist — A doctor specializing in diseases of the joints, such as arthritis.
- Sports medicine specialist — If you get an injury while playing a sport or doing a physical activity, you would see this kind of doctor.
After reading this post, you should be prepared to choose the right kind of doctor and let them know about any medical conditions you have.
You’ll also be able to understand the information or advice they give you. Use this to your advantage to stay healthy and happy.