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Antique and Obscure Words for Students in the History of Health and Medicine

The words we use reflect our society and come in and out of usage as our society changes. The words in these lists have largely faded out of current use but they fill the older publications.

Q

Q fever
Also called Nine Mile Fever, endemic to parts of Australia and western Montana. An infection spread to man through tick bites.

quack , quackeen
An unqualified medical practitioner who often prescribes a tonic or therapy of his own manufacture.

quackle
To choke a person (OED 1622).

quacksalver
An unqualified medical practitioner who often prescribes a tonic or therapy of his own manufacture. Very common in the 17th century but largely superceded by the shortened term 'quack' (OED 1579).

quadragesimal
1.A fast lasting forty days or any fast (OED 1577).
2. A period of time lasting or occurring every forty day, years, etc. (OED 1662).

quantulum
A small amount, portion or quantity (OED 1829).

quarantine
A period of isolation of people with contagious diseases. Quarantine hospitals were set up permanently as in the case of leprosy and syphilis or immigrants at Grosse Ile and Ellis Island and for the duration of an epidemic. Smallpox, influenza and cholera were all isolated. Many general hospitals had contagious diseases wards.

quarantine-officer
An officer in a port responsible for keeping vessels carrying people with contagious diseases separate from others.

quarrome, quarron
Slang term for the human body (U.S. 19th cent.).

quartan ague
A type of malaria in which the paroxysms occur every fourth day (OED 1398).

quartans
Occurring every fourth day, (counting both days of occurrence). It is said of a fever; a type of malaria in which the paroxysms occur every fourth day (OED 1387). A double quartan, is a fever in which there are two cycles of fever, each recurring every 72 hours, giving two days with and one day without fever.

quartered
To be hanged, drawn and quartered was a punishment set aside for traitors to the Crown. The traitor was hanged by the neck, cut down before death, had their intestines pulled out of their abdomen’s and burned. Finally, their bodies were cut into four pieces which were distributed and displayed on the gates of the London as a warning to all of the price of treason.

quasi-calcification of the palmar aponeurosis
Also known as "Dupuytren’s Contracture," a flexion deformity of the hands caused by thickening of the fascia, or fibrous connective tissue, of the palm. The proliferation of connective tissue causes the tendons of one or more fingers, (see entry for Dupuytren) a flexion deformity of the hands caused by thickening of the fascia, or fibrous connective tissue, of the palm. The proliferation of connective tissue causes the tendons of one or more fingers to shorten and tighten, leaving the finger permanently flexed. Disability may be as slight as inability to extend the ring finger completely or as severe as complete curling of the hand into a closed fist. The contracture does not affect neighboring nerves and other structures. Dupuytren’s contracture may be inherited or may occur as a symptom of scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis.

quicksilver
Mercury. So named because of its color and because it beads and runs over surfaces as opposed to being absorbed by them.

quietus
Death.

quinsy
Inflammation or swelling of the throat or part of the throat, esp. tonsillitis. The word means literally "dog throttling" as a graphic description of symptoms (OED c1390).

quintessence
A highly refined essence or extract of something to make perfumes or tonics (OED 1475).