SweGGate Facts Glossary Swedish (Medical)

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Swedish dictionary:  Medical section

This page is only for words connected to medicine
SweGGate General dictionary and others are
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Please note that the letters å, ä and ö are sorted after z in the alphabet

Medical science has developed rapidly in the last century. The cause of many diseases has been found and the terminology adjusted to reflect new knowledge. 
When you read medical terms in old documents you must consider the status of medical knowledge at the time and more important that of the author. Most diagnoses / causes of death in the church death records were determined by the priest who - although a scholar - usually did not have much medical schooling. The terms used are mostly descriptive, describing symptoms anyone can see, but sometimes also reflecting an assumed cause.
You should always consult a dictionary specialized in historical medical terminology. What looks like a modern term may not have had the same meaning 200 years ago.
The selection is clearly focused on the (assumed) needs for genealogical research and in no way intended to replace regular medical dictionaries.

>> Official Medical Diagnoses 1861 >>

Word T Explanation
hospital O [p:hospitaal] Originally an institution for care for the sick or elderly. From the 18th century and into the 20th century also used to denote a psychiatric /mental hospital.
Some general words in "medical phrases"
alltid A = always. synonym to jämt and ständigt.
fördärvad, förderfvad O severely affected, crippled, eg fördefvad af gickt = crippled by arthritis.
hastig /hetsig / häftig A = acute. Used as prefix in e.g. hastig feber, hetsig feber, hastig sjukdom.
hastig = rapid, quick, hetsig = ardent, häftig = heated, fierce
jämt A = always. synonym to alltid and ständigt.
oduglig O literally = useless. Used with ref to work capacity. The full phrase is oduglig till arbete.("od. t. arb")
ofärdig O disabled. sometimes with ref to a body part, e.g. ofärdig i högra armen. (disability in the right arm)
oförmögen O unable. e.g. oförmögen till arbete. =unable to work.
okänd A unknown, often as okänd sjukdom, okänd sjuka, okänd barnsjukdom
ständigt A = always. e.g. ständigt sängliggande. (always in bed)
understundom A at times / occasionally / sometimes. e.g. understundom sängliggande
"Medical phrases"
oangifvet, oangifven sjuka O Unknown disease / cause of death.
svag till kropp och själ A weakness of body and soul, cf sinnessvag
svag till sinne(t) A = sinnessvag
Anatomy   [definite from ending, plural ending]
höger A [högra] right (side)
vänster A [vänstra] left (side). 
sida  A [-n, -sidor] side
huvud, hufvud A [-et, =] head
bröst A [-et, -] chest (thorax), also the female breast but in that meaning seldom used in church records.
bål A [-en, -] torso
mage, mag- A [-en, -ar] stomach, abdomen
buk A [-en, -ar] abdomen
arm A [-en, -ar] arm
armbåge A [-en, -ar] elbow
hand A [-en, händer] hand
finger A [fingret, fingrar] finger
höft A [-en, -er] hip
ben A [-et, =] leg
knä A [-et, -n] knee
fot A [-en, fötter] foot
öga A [-t, -ögon] eye
öra A [-t, -öron] ear
hud A skin
skinn A skin
blod O blood
Diseases and causes of death
barnsjukdom, barnsjuka A children's disease. Often as okänd barnsjukdom = unknown children's disease.
barnsnöd A Complication at childbirth (mother). [barn = child, nöd = distress] - see barnsäng.
barnsäng A = at childbirth. Used for any complication at childbirth within the first few days (mother). barnsäng literally refers to the "child bed" [barn = child, säng = bed]. Most commonly profuse bleeding or post partum uterine infection.
barnsängssjuka, barnsängsfeber A puerperal complication / fever. [barn = child, säng = bed] - see barnsäng.
benröta A osteonecrosis ("bone rotting"), often an infection of skeletal bone or late complication to a fracture. cf kallbrand
blind A blind
blodslag O = cerebral stroke. see slag.
blodsjuka O blood disorder (in old times only the externally obvious ones ! No labs then)
blodstörtning A sudden and severe bleeding, often from lungs (tuberculosis) or in connection with child birth. Modern expression störtblödning = profuse bleeding.
brottfällig O = epileptisk. Suffers from epileptic fits.
bräcklig A fragile, often referring to weak health (in old age)
brännsjuka O "burning disease", disease with fever. cf hetsig sjukdom.
bröstfeber A chest / lung disease with fever, probably mostly pneumonia
bröstkov O see kov
bröstqvaf, bröstkvav   = shortness of breath. kvaf / kvav is derived from kväfva / kväva = suffocate 
Documented as early as 1671 (SAOB) but used probably until some 100 years ago.
bröstlidande O = bröstsjukdom.
bröstpassion O = bröstsjukdom. (bröst = chest, passion = suffering)
bröstsjukdom, bröstsjuka O disease of the lungs or pleura, probably mostly used for unidentified chest diseases, i.e. not the commonly recognized tuberculosis (lungsot) and pneumonia (håll och styng)
bröstsveda O = bröstsjukdom.
bukbett O abdominal pain of any origin, often colic.  from buk = abdomen and bett = (n) bite
bukbrock, bukbråk O umbilical hernia
bukrev, bukref, magrev O colic, severe constipation or blockage of the bowels. Today the term is used only by vet's about horses.
bukvred O ileus (= blocked intestine due to twisting or other obstruction)
bälgslag A same as kolik. bälg = bellow.
böld, karbunkel O carbuncle, putrid infection
colic, colique, kolik O colic. cf bukrev
diarré O [from Greek] diarrhoea (of any origin). Earlier also spelled diarrhé, diarrhee.
Similar words: durchlopp, utsot, rödsot
drunknad A drowned. 
durchlopp, durklopp O [from German durchlauf = "run through"] diarrhoea (of any origin).
Similar words: diarré, utsot, rödsot
dödfödd A stillborn
döv, döf A deaf
Engelska sjukan A Lat: rakitis. Rickets (Vitamin D deficiency). Literally "English disease"
epilepsi O epilepsy
fallandesjuka, fallandesot O convulsive disease, usually epilepsy. falla = (v) fall. cf sot.
feber A fever, often as suffix.
fluss A [from German fluss = river, Lat fluidum = fluid] any disease connected to fluids either as visible secretion or swelling or based on the old concept of "bad body fluids". Often in combinations like halsfluss = tonsillitis or common cold, .
frossa, fråssa A shivers, usually from fever
fulslag O [colloquial] = paronychia, inflammation at the edge of a finger- or toenail. Believed to be caused by a bite by den fule (= the devil)
förkylning A cold (the disease)
förstoppning A Lat: obstipatio. Constipation. cf bukrev.
gikt, giktvärk A 1  specific diagnosis of gout
2  in laymen's (and priest's) terms often used for a variety of diseases of bones and joints, accompanied by pain and swelling, e.g. rheumatic diseases, arthrosis, arthritis.
gyllenåder O piles, haemorrhoids. Literally "golden bloodvessel"
hastig feber O acute fever (influenza etc), also häftig feber.  cf hetsig f and hektisk f.
hektisk feber O the Latin adjective hecticus in turn from Greek Ekticos means "having a certain property" or "being in a certain condition".
From this the nouns hektik (stress on the 2nd syll. hekti'k) and hectica (stress on 1st he'ctica) have been used by the medical profession (> 100 years ago) for a chronic, infectious condition with fever, recurrent prominent blushing and often significant weight loss. 
The red cheeks often seen in later stages of pulmonary TBC (tuberculosis) were often referred to as hektiska rosor ("hectic" roses)
In the old times TBC was probably the most common cause of this combination of signs and with "common" people probably considered identical.
(Cancer also causes weight loss but not regularly the fevers and blushing typical for late stages of TBC). 
I expect that priests often used the expression hektisk feber meaning a hectica and most of these cases were actually pulmonary TBC.
Today this meaning of hektisk is unknown to most people and the word is often used in the meaning "busy" e.g. en hektisk dag = a very busy day
hetsig feber O One of the definitions of hetsig in old Swedish is: warm, heated, especially in conjunction with feber (= fever), or a condition where heat is prominent as in carbuncles, infected wounds etc.
When used as cause of death I believe it was commonly used when fever was obvious, typically in flu, pneumonia, sepsis and some child diseases like measles (which in the old days was more deadly than today) - usually in the expression hetsig sjukdom or hetsig feber (the last one being a tautology)
hetsig sjukdom O see hetsig feber.
hjärtslag O paralysis of the heart, stopping of the heart (any cause).
hjärtsprång, hjertsprång O also hjärtesprång, hjertesprång, has several meanings:
1 unspecified heart disease, especially convulsive (17th, 18th century)
2 convulsive disease in children (even when not caused by heart disease)
3 tachycardia = rapid heart frequency (18th, 19th century)
The herb Leonurus cardiaca Lin (hjärtstilla in Swedish) has its name since it was used to treat "hjärtsprång".
håll A a sharp pain in the side of the lower chest
håll och styng O Old descriptive term for pneumonia
håll is a sharp pain in the side of the lower chest and is still used in Swedish
styng is an old form of "sting" which is a sharp piercing pain in general.
Together they form a layman's description of the pains associated with pneumonia and / or pleurisy.
idiot O very low intelligence, idiot
ihjälslagen A killed, literally "beaten to death" or "killed by a blow", e.g. ihjälslagen af svärsonen (killed by the son-in-law)
kallbrand O gangrene. cf rötfeber.
karbunkel, böld O carbuncle
kikhosta O Lat: pertussis. :Whooping cough.
kolik, colic, colique O colic
konvulsioner O convulsions.
koppor A layman's term for diseases with fluid filled skin blisters. Commonly chickenpox, cowpox and smallpox.
kov O shortness of breath, cough, sometimes about TBC.
krank O [German krank(heit)]. [n] illness, [adj] sick.
kräfta O Lat: carcinoma. Cancer, malignant tumour.
lungsot O pulmonary tuberculosis (lung from (n) lunga = lung, sot = disease)
magrev O see bukrev.
magskärv, magskerf O Originally the name of the tip of the sternum (the vertical bone joining the ribs at the front). This was believed to sometimes be pointed inwards causing pain in the upper stomach area so the word was used to describe painful stomach diseases too. Since rickets is also sometimes accompanied by stomach pain this word has been used for rickets as well. cf skerfva
maskslag O old name for fainting, unconsciousness, believed to be caused by internal worms. mask = worm.
moderpassion, modersjuka O from "moder" = mother and "passion" =suffering. Old word for "hysteri" = hysteric fits. (hysteric is derived from Greek hystera = womb).
mässling A measles
nervfeber, nerffeber O literally "fever of nerves". Usually typhoid fever based on a (mis)conception of extensive nerve involvement. Also used about diseases with obvious symptoms from the nervous system.
nervslag, nerfslag O sudden paralysis, often = cerebral stroke but sometimes isolated periferal paralysis from other causes, e.g. facial palsy.
njurpassion O literally njur = kidney and passion = illness. Probably often referred to kidney stone.
olycka A accident, in older times often vådelig händelse.
ondslag O 1  = fulslag.  2 = syphilis
ormbett A bitten by a snake.
oxel O very old Swedish term meaning a tumour in general on a human or animal body. It is first found in a paper from 1723 but has completely gone out of use in the 20th century.
Do not confuse with the tree "oxel" = (Latin) Sorbes Suecica of the family Rosaceae (rose plants).
passion O (Lat passion, adj patient). suffering, sickness. Plur: passioner. cf Eng compassion. Patient (Swe and Eng) is the adjective form.
Often used with specification, e.g. stenpassion, bröstpassion, moderpassion
podager A Greek: podagra (podos = foot, agra = noose), gout of the big toe joint. Also named portvinstå (from portvin = port wine, = toe) since it was believed to be caused by excessive consumption of port wine (actually not entirely off the mark but maybe not the most common cause). The same disease in a thumb joint is named chiragra.
Several proverbs refer to this disease, e.g. 
Armod är godt för podager = poverty is good for podagra, i.e. does not commonly affect poor people.
För podager hjelper ingen sko = no shoe cures/eases podagra pain
plåga A [-n, plågor] suffering, pain. Often used as suffix,
qväfd O (modern spelling kvävd) = suffocated, also förqväfd.. Common phrases: af våda qväfd (accidentlly s.), qväfd i sängen (s. in bed), af modren förqväfd (s. by the mother).
ros, rosen A disease showing red skin spots - could then be used about a multitude of diseases. 
rödsot O bloody diarrhoea, often dysentery. Quite common in old days and often lethal, especially for children. cf sot.
röta, rötfeber O rot, putrid fever, gangrene.  cf kallbrand, benröta
scharlakansfeber A Lat: scarlatina. Scarlet fever
sinnessvag A = literally "mentally weak", mild forms of insanity or various mental disorders. Do not expect detailed psychiatric diagnoses or descriptions in church records. It is not only in layman's terms but also a "sensitive" subject so I believe only quite obvious disorders were recorded at all.
sjuk A ill
sjuka, siuka, sjukdom A (n) disease, illness. cf sot.
sjuklig A sickly, prone to disease
skerfva O variations: skärva, skerva, skirva, skyrva, skörva, skjerv (they all sound very
similar in Swedish)
1 rakitis (Lat) = rickets, a disease caused by vitamin-D deficiency, common in old times when good and sufficient food was hard to get.
2 (local) general malnutrition and slow growth in children connected to chronic bowel disease or "bad digestion". (1712, 1880)
3 magskärv
skörbjugg A Lat: scorbutus = scurvy, disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. Common among sailors on long voyages.
slag O (among > 60 different meanings, a common one = a blow) medical diagnosis with several uses but always in connection with a sudden and severe medical crisis. Usually specified like hjärtslag (heart stop), slaganfall ((cerebral) stroke). When used as cause of death as slag it probably referred to a cerebral stroke, easily recognizable through paralysis.
When used in the meaning a blow it was often specified, e.g. slagen af åskan (hit by lightning), sparkad af häst (kicked by a horse), ihjälslagen af svärsonen (killed by the son-in-law).
slagen af åskan O hit by lightning.
slicksot, sleksot O disease associated with frequent licking or chewing on specific objects. Mostly used in vet. medicine about conditions with lack of some substance like salt, calcium etc. cf sot.
smittkoppor A Lat: variola. Smallpox. Sometimes probably cowpox. cf koppor.
smärta A (sharp) pain. cf värk = dull pain
sot, sott, soot O disease in general, later especially about contagious d. Used as suffix in innumerable combined words for different diseases, e.g. vattusot, lungsot. >>more combined words>>
Also used as a prefix as in sotdöd, sotsäng. <> homograph = soot from fire
sotdöd O death from disease or old age. Created as opposite of "died in battle" which was considered more glorious since "beginning of history". This was so in the Roman Empire (2000 years ago) and already in the Nordic mythology it is claimed that who died in battle would be welcomed at Valhall - an honour not granted to the ones who died "sotdöden"  
sotsäng O sickbed, both literally a bed used by a sick person and metaphorically referring to being disabled and weak by disease.
stenpassion A from "sten" = stone and "passion" =suffering. Illness related to stone(s). Most commonly stones of the kidneys or urinary bladder as well as gallbladder. As a cause of death probably urinary poisoning from obstruction of urinary tracts or secondary inflammation of the gall bladder causing jaundice.
strypsjuka O literally "strangulation disease" usually diphtheria.
stum, dumb A dumb (cannot speak)
svullnad, svulnad A swelling
svullsjuka, svällsjuka A Disease associated with swelling - probably often oedema like in severe heart failure, liver failure etc cf vattusot.
sängliggande A bed-ridden, confined to the bed.
trånsjuka O In older times: any illness that caused significant weight loss. cf tvinsot cf sot.
In later times: Seldom used but then often poetic meaning "serious longing for a loved one".
tuberkulos, TBC A = tuberculosis, TB
Pls note that the term TB cannot be used before the causing bacterium (mycobacterium tuberculosis) was identified by Dr Robert Koch in 1882.
Read a good article about the History of TB.
tvinsot, tvinsjuka O [from förtvina = "wither", phtisis in Greek]  any disease characterized by obvious weight loss. Can be malignant diseases (e.g. cancer) or serious disturbances of the digestive system.
The term is used as a description rather than a specific diagnosis. When other symptoms or signs pointed to a more specific diagnosis the specific term would be used. 
For example TB was, at least in later stages, recognized by most people and then terms like lungsot (pulmonary TB, "consumption") were used rather than tvinsot or tärande sjukdom.
The English term "consumption", used for hundreds of years and mostly referring to TB, refers to the severe weight loss - it "consumed" the body. cf trånsjuka
cf sot.
tyfus A typhoid fever
tärande sjukdom O literally "wasting disease" see tvinsot
utsot O diarrhoea of any origin.  Similar words: diarré, durchlopp, rödsot.
vattusot O abnormal accumulation of fluids in the body, see sot.
vådeligen O violently, usually as a cause of death meaning dead by some accident.
värk A (modern) = dull pain
(old, also) = (painful) swelling. e.g. "slå värk" (something) caused painful swelling.
förderfvad af värk = disabled by pain (but probably often referring to rheumatic disease or multiple arthrosis / arthritis)
åkomma O ailment, less severe disease, in older times also used about more serious medical conditions.
ålderdom O old age
-bräcklighet, -krämpor
A literally "weakness from old age". Often used as cause of death where no obvious disease was observed or recognized.
koppslagning, koppning O procedure to draw "bad" blood using cow's horns where the pointed end is cut off. The skin is pierced superficially with a sharp knife or needle, then the wide end is placed on the skin, air is sucked out through the small end which is then sealed. 
purgering, laxering O take an aperient (laxative). Popular treatment for most diseases in old times based on the notion of "bad body fluids" and "indigestion".
åderlåtning, slå åder O drawing of blood by cutting a vein open. Popular treatment for most diseases in old times based on the notion of "bad blood".

note i brackets like this [p:staat] is pronunciation for English speakers.
SAOB: Svenska Akademiens OrdBok, the huge standard encyclopaedia of Swedish language.
In the "T' = Time column: O = Old times, M = Moderns language, A = All times
Explanation by F Haeffner, M.D. unless otherwise stated. Mail me your contribution or request.

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Last updated by F Hae 2005-11-23 00:51 © Fredrik Haeffner, 2003-4