When you’re under the weather and your doctor asks you to describe your symptoms, your response probably involves common descriptive words like “pain,” “swelling,” and “inflammation.” Medical experts and patients alike have come to accept this more banal phraseology as the norm. But what only practiced professionals know is that, beneath the veneer of Gray’s Anatomy and Scrubs scripts, much more official medical terminology comes into play. And yes, each and every word is about as painful to pronounce as it is to experience.
Herein, we’ve gathered some of the craziest medical terms—from the almost naughty-sounding formication to the how-can-a-word-seriously-be-that-long pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis—for common conditions and symptoms. The next time you want to call a runny nose a “runny nose” or a brain freeze a “brain freeze,” stop yourself and use these highly official medical terms instead.
Have you ever crossed your legs for such a long period of time that, once you tried to get up, you found that they were completely numb? Most people refer to this sensation as having your limbs “fall asleep,” but the official medical term for it is actually obdormition.
Believed to have been coined onomatopoetically by the Greeks, this scientific term refers to the noise that your stomach makes when it’s seriously in need of some fuel or struggling to digest something that doesn’t agree with it. And if you do find yourself with borborygmus, you can just tell your doctor in simpler terms that you’ve got a bad case of the stomach rumbles.
Don’t be alarmed if your dermatologist tells you that you’re suffering from xerosis. This is just the much scarier sounding scientific term for dry skin.
When you clean your ears out with a Q-tip, what you’re removing is the cerumen, or earwax. This noun stems from cera, the Latin word for “wax.”
If the brain freeze from your ice cream is a bad headache, then don’t try calling the pain by its official medical name—sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia—or you’ll surely get a real headache.
Nobody enjoys the sensation of biting down on their cheek, but some people just can’t help but do so over and over again. These folks suffer from morsicatio buccarum, a condition that forces them to repeatedly chew or bite down on the inside of their mouth, causing painful lesions.
After watching a romantic movie with a bittersweet ending, you might find your vision blurred by a few loose tears. In basic terminology, this would be called “crying.” But in the scientific community, this is referred to as lachrymation, or the excessive flow of tears.
Do your eyes hurt whenever you step outside? You might be suffering from photalgia, or a light-induced pain of the irises. And this sensitivity is a type of photophobia, or an abnormal intolerance to light.
Epistaxis is the medical term for when blood pours out of your nose—in other words, what you may call a nosebleed.
Though similar to epistaxis, pseudoepistaxis is slightly different in the sense that, when it occurs, the blood coming out of the nose doesn’t actually originate from the nasal cavity. Rather, the blood simply passes through and exits from the nasal cavity, so it merely looks like a normal nosebleed.
Proctalgia fugax is a pain in the butt—seriously: This medical term is the fancy way of referring to anal pain with no identifiable cause, typically identified by muscle spasms of the derriere.
One of the most common side effects of taking medications is xerostomia, or dry mouth. And when a medication is known to cause dry mouth, it is appropriately referred to as xerogenic.
“I think I’m getting pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, pop.” Okay, so maybe that’s not how the legendary Zoolander quote goes, exactly. But it should’ve been, seeing as this medical term is a synonym for silicosis, or the lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust: In other words, the black lung. And if you’re wondering why this word looks so farfetched, that’s because it was invented by the president of the National Puzzlers’ League as the longest word in the English language (at 45 letters).
People who suffer from bruxism, or teeth grinding, might experience symptoms like chipped teeth, tooth sensitivity, and trouble sleeping.
You probably know them as goosebumps, but their official scientific name is actually horripilation, coming from the Latin words horrere (“to stand on end”) and pilus (“hair”). The word “horror” actually also stems from the Latin horrere—appropriately so, seeing as most freaky flicks will give you some intense horripilations.
If and when your muscle fibers contract under your skin, you can be boring and say that you’re having a muscle twitch—or you can sound like a trained medical professional and remark on your fasciculation.
Though it doesn’t have the most pleasant sounding name, this condition is actually pretty common—and it’s more than likely you’ve dealt with it at least once over the past few months. Maybe you didn’t know it as rhinorrhea back then, but you definitely knew (and loathed) it by its more common name: a runny nose.
Ingrown nails are painful, but you know what would make them worse? Having to tell the doctor that you have onychocryptosis every single time you have one.
Transient Diaphragmatic Spasm
It might feel quite horrible in the moment, but getting the wind knocked out of you—or a transient diaphragmatic spasm—usually won’t last for more than a minute or two.
There’s a reason we call those pesky, painful ulcers on our lips “canker sores,” given that the medical term for them—aphthous stomatitis—is no easy thing to pronounce.
Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutter
This is just one of the medical terms referring to involuntary twitches in the diaphragm. Other terms that you might hear to refer to these are “myoclonic twitches” and, more simply, “hiccups.”
No, not fornication—formication. This word with a one-letter difference refers to that creepy-crawly feeling you sometimes get, as if your skin is teeming with a bunch of tiny insects.
You might not recognize the medical term cardialgia, but it’s probable you’ve experienced it after a particularly gluttonous meal. For some people, eating certain foods can cause indigestion, leading to cardialgia (more commonly known as heartburn).
Generally, any stomach bug or food poisoning will be accompanied by an unpleasant wave of emesis, or nausea.
When you’re dealing with rhinorrhea, you might find yourself sternutating—or sneezing—quite a bit.
A general runny nose is rhinorrhea, but a runny nose as a result of eating certain foods (like hot or spicy ones) is more specifically known as gustatory rhinitis. (Yes, you’ll find highly specific medical terminology for pretty much everything.)
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
Shin splints are neither fun nor impressive to have, seeing as simply having flat feet can cause the inflammation around the shinbone. However, if you do get stuck with shin splints, one way to impress your friends is by telling them that you have medial tibial stress syndrome. Sure, it might just be different names for the same thing, but they most likely won’t know that.
Pounding headache? Uneasy stomach? Unusual sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights? These are all classic symptoms of veisalgia, more commonly known as a hangover.
Focus intently on something with your eyes, and you might find that you’re starting to see small transparent threads floating across your line of sight. No, there aren’t small parasites taking over your corneas; these are called muscae volitantes, and they are just small proteins inside the jelly of your eye that are usually nothing to worry about!
Has the mere sight of blood or even an overwhelming amount of anxiety ever caused you to pass out? If so, then you’re one of the many people who have experienced vasovagal syncope, which is really just a fancy way of saying that you’ve fainted.
Never ignore angina. This chest pain—which has been described as feeling like a vise is squeezing on the chest area—is an indication that your heart isn’t getting enough blood, and it could be a symptom of a serious heart disease. And for ways to keep your heart healthy, load up on these 40 Heart Foods To Eat After 40.
Also known as the chickenpox, varicella is a highly contagious infection is most commonly seen in unvaccinated children.
You should head to the dentist soon if you’re suffering from any sort of odontalgia—or put more simply, from a toothache.
When you’re dealing with pharyngitis, or a sore throat, your best course of action is to rest and relax in bed with a warm bowl of soup.
The change in cabin pressure on an airplane has been known to cause otalgia, or ear pain.
Cachexia is the term used to describe the weight loss, muscle atrophy, and loss of appetite seen in patients with diseases like cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and congestive heart failure. Generally, when someone has cachexia, their chances of dying increase.
Many medical conditions are accompanied by pyrexia, or a fever. Luckily, with a lot of water and some bedrest, pyrexia is generally easy to flush out.
People who have hyperhidrosis deal with a lot of sweat. In addition to perspiring at appropriate times, like at the gym or while tanning outside, they will also break out in a sweat in the dead of winter or even while at rest.
Make sure to always wear shoes that fit well. Otherwise, you risk coming home with feet covered in many a heloma molle, which is colloquially referred to as “soft corn.”
Transient Lingual Papillitis
Transient lingual papillitis causes small red or white bumps to develop on the tongue. Also known as lie bumps, these tend to clear up on their own within a few days, but that isn’t to say the process isn’t itchy and even painful.
Most kids struggle with nocturnal enuresis, or bedwetting, at some point during their adolescence, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Luckily, this habit is usually left behind in childhood with the temper tantrums and thumb-sucking.
Do your joints pop and lock when you drop it? What you’re hearing is crepitus, a popping and cracking sound in the joints due to air being in the subcutaneous tissue.
When you’re dealing with dysuria, or painful urination, then every trip to the bathroom is about as dreaded as the dentist’s office. And you should never ignore dysuria, seeing as it’s normally a sign of something serious going on inside your body, or could even be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection.
Breaking new shoes in is never fun. After walking around for just a few hours, your feet run the risk of developing bursting bullas, or blisters.
Need an easy way to tell whether you’ve had too much to drink? Generally, you’ll know that it’s time to call it quits when you’re experiencing diplopia, or double vision.
People who have pharyngitis often also suffer from dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Luckily, once the pharyngitis is treated, the dysphagia usually goes away, too.
Though having a chalazion on your eyelid isn’t fun, these styes tend to disappear on their own within a few weeks, causing no long-term damage.
This is what your dentist always warns you about. Should you neglect your flossing responsibilities, you might end up with pericoronitis, or inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding the teeth and gums. It makes everything from brushing to eating—apples are especially rough—a painful endeavor.
Is your vision blurrier than usual? You might need glasses, but it’s also possible that you’re suffering from keratitis, or inflammation of the cornea. Other symptoms associated with this condition include eye pain, redness, and excess discharge, and one way to prevent it is to make sure that you’re practicing proper contact lens care if you wear them.
When the fungus known as candida becomes too abundant in your mouth, it turns into a condition known as oral candidasis, or oral thrush. People who have oral candidasis will experience white lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks, but these will go away as soon as proper treatment is administered (usually anti-fungal medication).