Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Jean-Louis Petit

Jean Louis Petit
(1674 – 1750)

French surgeon and anatomist, Jean Louis Petit was born in Paris in on March 13, 1674.  His family rented an apartment at his house to Alexis Littre (1658 – 1726), a French anatomist. Petit became an apprentice of Littre at seven years of age, helping him in the dissections for his lectures and at an early age became the assistant in charge of the anatomic amphitheater.

Because of Petit’s dedication to anatomy and medicine, in 1690 at the age of sixteen, became a disciple of a famous Paris surgeon, Castel.

In 1692, Petit entered the French army and performed surgery in two military campaigns. By 1693 he started delivering lectures and was accepted as a great surgeon, being invited to the most difficult operations.  In 1700 he was appointed Chief Surgeon of the Military School in Paris and in the same year he received the degree of Master of Surgery from the Faculty of Paris.

In 1715 he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the Royal Society of London. He was appointed by the King as the first Director General of the Royal Academy of Surgery when it was founded in 1731.

Petit’s written works are of historical importance.  “Traite des Maladies des Os” ( A Treatise on Bone Diseases);  “Traite des Maladies Chirurgicales et des Operation” (A Treatise on Surgical Diseases and their Operations” This last book was published posthumously in 1774. He also published a monograph on hemorrhage, another on lachrymal fistula, and others.

He was one of the first to perform choIecystotomy and mastoidotomy. His original tourniquet design for amputations saved many in the battlefield and the design of the same surgical instrument today has not changed much since its invention by him.

His name is remembered in the lumbar triangle, also called the "triangle of Petit", and the abdominal hernia that can ensue through that area of weakness, the lumbar hernia or "Petit's hernia".

1. “Jean Louis Petit – A Sketch of his Life, Character, and Writings” Hayne, AP San Fran Western Lancet 1875 4: 446-454
2. “Oeuvres compl?tes de Jean-Louis Petit” 1837 Imprimerie de F. Chapoulaud
3. Extraits de l'eloge de Jean-Louis Petit Ius dans Ia seance publique de I' Academie royale de chirurgie du 26 mai 1750” Louis A. Chirurgie 2001: 126 : 475- 81

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11+ medical words that are used incorrectly

Lecturing on Medical Terminology, Clinical Anatomy, Medical History, Sales, and basics of Surgery for so many years, I have developed an appreciation for proper language in medical communication. I can understand that sometimes medical professionals use vernacular language to convey information to patients, but I have seen and heard many mistakes. The following lists some medical terms that are used incorrectly. I call them my "pet peeves" in medical communication. Dr. Miranda.

1. In the heart, heart valves, and valve ring valvuloplasty arena, everybody talks about the “anulus” of the different valves, but most everybody misspells this term. The word anulus originates from the Latin term “anulus” meaning “ring”. The proper way of writing it is ANULUS not ANNULUS, with a double "n"

2. The word “process” is English. therefore its plural form should be pronounced as “processes” not with a Latinized inflection as “processiiis”.

3. The inflammation of a tendon is “tendonitis”, not “tendinitis”. The root term for tendon is "tendon" (no changes). The term originates separately from the Latin "tendere", to stretch, and originally from the Greek [τένω} meaning  " to stretch" or "sinew". The term was wrongly changed in medieval times to "tendin-" and this mistake has stuck through time.

Black Olive Tapenade With Garlic, Capers, and Anchovies Recipe - Courtesy of Serious Eats
Olive Tapenade (Serious Eats)

4. When there is an excess amount of fluid in the pericardium, that is known as a  pericardial effusion. Left untreated, the pericardial effusion can lead to a drastic reduction in cardiac function. This is called a cardiac "tamponade”, not a “tamponaade” (with a French accent) and please don’t call it a “tapenade” (I have heard it), a delicious dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil!

5. The singular form for “criteria” is “criterium”. The following is wrong:  “only one criteria was used to make the decision”. The proper sentence should be "only one criterium was used to make the decision".

6. When using a scope to examine the fundus of the uterus, the procedure is a funduscopic procedure, not fundoscopic! It is more euphonic I agree, but not correct!

7. In spinal anatomy, the term “a facet joint” is most commonly used, but the term should be pronounced with the accent on the first syllable as in “fácet”! And just to be a bit more correct, the proper term for a so-called “facet joint” is “zygapophyseal joint”. The term facet is also used to denote each small surface of a diamond.

8. In colon pathology a “diverticulum” is an outpouching of the colon wall. The plural form for “diverticulum” is diverticula.  The terms diverticulae or diverticuli are not correct

9. The terms centigrade and centimeter are derivate from the Latin word “centus”, meaning “one hundred”, as in "centurion", a Roman Army commander of one hundred soldiers. Therefore, the French-like pronunciation of centimeter and centigrade with a nasal initial "a", although cool, is not correct!

10. Lately, there is a trend within cardiothoracic surgeons to use the terms "thoratomy", "thoracentesis", "thorascope", and "thorascopy". This is incorrect. The root term for thorax  (or chest) is [thorac-], which arises from the Greek [θώρακα] (thóraka) meaning "chest". By definition, root terms are not to be shortened. So, the proper terms to be used are "thoracotomy", "thoracocentesis", "thoracoscope", and "thoracoscopy"

11. Finally, my top pet peeve: The words “anatomy” and “dissection” are actually synonymous.  Anatomy has a Greek origin. Ana means “apart” and “otomy” is the “process of cutting”: “to cut apart”  Dissection has a Latin origin and means exactly the same! In fact, for many years the term “to anatomize” was used instead of “to dissect”!

Where is the problem? In the pronunciation! “dissection” should rhyme with “dissent”, "fissure", and "dissolve". For a complete article on this topic, click here.

1. “"The Doctor’s Dyslexicon: 101 pitfalls in medical language" John H. Dirckx The American Journal of Dermatopathology. 27(1):86-88, FEBRUARY 2005 DOI: 10.1097/ PMID: 15677983
2. " Stedman's Concise Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions" John H. Dirckx, Editor
3. "The Origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA 1970 Hafner Publishing Co.
4. "Lexicon of Orthopædic  Terminology" M. Diab. 1999. Amsterdam Hardwood Academic Publishers.
Thanks to Serious Eats for their delicious tapenade recipe, as well as their permission to use their tapenade image.

Note: Google Translate includes a speaker icon. Clicking on it will allow you to hear the pronunciation of the word.