List off your favorite old-timey disease names!

Having been diagnosed with lumbago a few years back and having apparently had a brush with pleurisy earlier this year, I got to wanting to collect some more old-timey sounding disease names. Couple of things please:

Real diseases only; and
Not looking for comedy names for diseases (i.e. 30 different joke names for the runs)

Especially cool would be diseases people still actually get but maybe have a “scientific” name now.

Some of my other favorites are dropsy, impetago, vertigo/the spins, ricketts, scurvey and “the vapors.”

Darn. Came in specifically to say I had pleurisy once. Poop. All my other diseases have been quite boring.

Consumption. “A disease afflicting operatic sopranos in the role of Mimi in La Bohème. The audience is forced to accept that a 200-pound woman who sings for four hours is wasting away.”

Consumption… what exactly does it do? It sounds very romantic and tragic (thanks to the Victorian era “period” movies and novels) but really… what the heck does it do? There’s a cough(?) and a loss of appetite but what else? I know TB has those two symptoms so I am a wee bit confused.

Not to hijack, but I’ve heard of Lumbago, what is it?

I got tested for Diptheria once.

Isn’t there one called “Berri Berri” or something?

Dysentary (what exactly was this?) and the dreaded apoplexy (stroke). Too bad I can’t remember what other diseases you could die from in the old Oregon Trail game. Those had some good names.

“Consumption” is tuberculosis. Dysentery is an intestinal inflammation, sometimes but not always an infection.

I love the sound of “lumbago”, which is pain in the lumbar region of the back.

Beriberi is a disease found primarily in Southeast Asia, where a diet high in polished (white) rice leads to thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, with some very nasty results. The word “beriberi” in Singhalese means “I cannot”, meaning the person is too ill to do anything.

A very old term is “the megrims”, meaning a migraine headache.

Cholera but it’s coming back, eh?

How about “putrid fever,” now known as typhus.

The croup. Beats the hell outta me what it is but the name’s way cool.


Oh hey, I found a whole list of 'em here.

My dad had scarlet fever as a kid. I haven’t heard of anyone having that for some time.

Women used to get “the curse”, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a disease.

Hyperthyroidism was once called “Cretinism.”


Salon’s article on archaic disease names:

What we gain in descriptive precision, we lose in charm.

Perusing John Graunt’s 1662 Bills of Mortality reveals such gems as King’s Evil, Meagrom, and my favorite, Sodainly – uh, what is that, a Three Stooges affliction?

megrims. essentially, depression.

Apoplexy ( sp?) would be the current name of stroke.

convulsions or fits = epilespsy.

Prone to wheeziness or weak lungs = asthma

Somethin’ ain’t quite right with that boy = mentally impaired/autism

I was always under the thought that consumption was cancer.

Don’t forget about the romance of polio. (Not)

Amoebic dysentary was once called “the bloody flux”. Such poetry.

One of the symptoms of beriberi is extreme water retention. I read an account of Nick Rowe, an American POW who was held in Vietnam for five years. All the other men captured with him slowly deteriorated until they looked like walking skeletons, but for reasons he couldn’t explain, Rowe still looked healthy. One day a doctor came into the camp to examine the prisoners. When the doctor inspected Rowe, he diagnosed him with beriberi, and gave him an injection. A little while later, he felt the very strong urge to urinate. He made it to the latrine and uninated non-stop for quite some time. When the flow finally stopped, he looked just as skeletonized as his companions.

Cancer was “wasting disease.”

The Grippe was influenza.