Funny Examples of Swedish Medical Terminology

The Scandinavian languages have long tried to resist the incorporation of foreign words. The Norwegians are perhaps more into that in our time, but Swedish medical terminology is a powerful, very old example of our provinsionalism. Even though words like diabetes and stroke are now used by lay people, the old Swedish terms are by no means obsolete.

What sometimes makes our terminology doubly amusing to a non-Swede is the fact that, in our language, multi-word expressions or descriptions are written with no space between the words. For example, May Day demonstration is förstamajdemonstration in Swedish and a female laundromat proprietor is called a tvättinrättningsföreståndarinna, and there are even longer words than that.

Here are some samples of local Swedish medical terminology:

BÄLTROS – “Belt rash”: Herpes Zoster or Shingles (The Greek word zōstēr means belt and the word shingles is said to be related to the word zoster.)

BUKSPOTTKÖRTELN – ”The Belly Spit gland”: Pancreas (Greek for “all flesh”.)

SKÖLDKÖRTELN – “The Shield Gland”: Thyroid, shaped like the shield of a knight in armor.

KROPPSPULSÅDERN – ”The Body Pulse Vessel”: Aorta.

LILLHJÄRNAN – ”The Little Brain”: Cerebellum.

RYGGRADEN – ”The Back Line”: Spine

HALSMANDLAR – “Throat Almonds”: Tonsils

HALSFLUSS – “Throat Flow (discharge)”: Tonsillitis

KÄRLKRAMP – ”(blood) Vessel Cramp”: Angina

HALSBRÄNNA – ”Throat Burn”: Acid Reflux

BARNFÖRLAMNING – ”Child Paralysis”: Poliomyelitis

GULSOT – ”Yellow Sickness”: Jaundice

LUNGSOT – ”Lung Sickness”: Tuberculosis

KRÄFTA – ”Crayfish” (the Latin word cancer means crab or creeping ulcer. The Swedes just used the existing Swedish word): Cancer

KÖRTELFEBER – ”Gland Fever”: Mononucleosis

SOCKERSJUKA – “Sugar Disease”: Diabetes

SLAGANFALL – “Strike Attack”: Stroke

BENSKÖRHET – ”Bone Brittleness”: Osteoporosis

PÅSSJUKA – ”Bag Disease”: Parotitis/Mumps

SJUVECKORSKLÅDA – ”Seven Week Itch”: Pityriasis Rosea

ENGELSKA SJUKAN – ”The English Disease”: Rickets/Osteomalacia

DANSSJUKA – ”Dance Disease”: Chorea

KALLBRAND – “Cold Fire”: Gangrene

BLINDTARMEN – ”The Blind Gut”: Appendix (which is a small, dead-end piece of gut)

GRÅ STARR – “Gray Stare”: Cataract (which can make the pupil look gray or cloudy)

GRÖN STARR – ”Green Stare”: Glaucoma (occasionally associated with a greenish instead of red appearance of the pupil when shining light into the eye)

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