Sound Alike Medical Words


Words that sound the same may be very confusing, especially if the words are medical in nature. These words are called homonyms, which are words that sound alike but have different meanings. An example of which are, pear (fruit) and pair (a set of two things.)

Homonyms may either be homophones or homographs. They are defined as:

Homophones are types of homonym words that sound the same with have different meanings. However the words have different spellings. Example: to, two and too

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Example: left (past tense of leave) and left (opposite of right)

Here is a list of sound alike words in the medical field which have different meanings.

Knowledge of these words is necessary to avoid confusion. There may be dire consequences in the meaning of the text, especially when lives are at stake.

  • abduct, v.t., to draw away from a position parallel to the median axis. Think of abduction, which means a taking away.

  • adduct, v.t., to draw toward a position near or parallel to the median axis.

  • aberrant, adj., wandering or deviating from the normal; abnormal.

  • apparent, adj., visible, obvious, evident.

  • abscess, n., a circumscribed, localized collection of pus, caused by infection, and by decomposition of tissue.

  • aphthous, adj., refers to aphthae (singular “aphtha”), small ulcers of the oral mucosa.

  • any more — Having to do with volume. We cannot have any more of these episodes.

  • anymore — Having to do with time. We will not see him anymore.

  • any way —A pathway or method of accomplishing something. Example: Is there any way I can go to town today?

  • anyway — In any case. Example: Anyway, she did not go to the party. She was not taking the pills anyway. (The two-word version usually, but not always, begins or ends a sentence or phrase)

  • ACE, acronym for angiotensin-converting enzyme (among various other acronyms, but this is the most common).

  • Ace, a brand name for bandages, wraps, and other OTC medical supplies. ace, nonmedical word; a playing card (ace of hearts, etc.); a supreme achiever (such as a flying ace).

  • access, n., admittance; “access to.”

  • axis, n., a real or imaginary straight line going through a structure around which it revolves, or would turn if it could revolve.

  • excess n., the degree or state of surplus, or beyond the usual, as in “There was excess peritoneal fluid present.”

  • advice n., a recommendation or counsel.

  • advise v., to give advice or counsel.

  • affect – influence – a verb, except in the case of the psychiatric meanings. If you can substitute the word “influence” – use affect, e.g. affect the outcome, (except for the psych meaning of general attitude; facial affect, etc.) A doctor may refer to the “affected area,” for instance.

  • effect – result or cause – Can be a noun or a verb (result or cause). If you can substitute “cause,” “perform” or performance” for this word, it is a verb. e.g., effect of a drug, effective medication, effect a change, etc. Note: “mass effect”

  • agonist (Pharmacology) – a drug that stimulates activity of cell molecules in a way they would be stimulated by substances naturally produced.

  • antagonist – a substance that inhibits or counteracts the action of another.

  • all together, meaning many together. “Let’s do it all together.”

  • altogether, adv., completely. “Will stop medications altogether.” Can also mean in the nude. “She posed in the altogether.”

  • allusion, n., an indirect reference.

  • elusion, n., an adroit or clever escape, not to be confused with allusion, an indirect reference, or illusion, an unreal or misleading image of perception.

  • illusion, n. an unreal or misleading image of perception.

  • allude, vt., to make indirect reference. “She alluded to her mother’s history.”

  • elude, v.t., to avoid. “The diagnosis eludes us.”

  • all ready – Implying that all is ready. (We are all ready now, i.e., all of us are ready.)

  • already, adv., wholly ready; refers to time. (It’s already Tuesday. – He had already left.)

  • all right – adj., 1. SATISFACTORY (the film is all right for children). 2. SAFE, WELL (He was ill, but he’s all right now.) 3. AGREEABLE, PLEASING. adv. 1. Beyond doubt; certainly (She has pneumonia, all right.) 2. WELL ENOUGH (He does all right in school.)

  • alright – In general, this form is not in current usage. The meanings are the same as for ALL RIGHT, and the two-word version is more generally accepted and preferred.

  • anuresis, n., A condition of inability to urinate. Total lack of urine.

  • enuresis, n., bedwetting.

  • any more – adj.+noun (two words) (He is not to drink any more alcohol.) Is it possible to use this sentence without the word “any”? If so, use the two-word version. Also, if the phrase or sentence indicates QUANTITY, use the two-word version.

  • anymore – adv., (She does not see her children anymore.) This one-word version does not indicate quantity, but indicates TIME.

  • any time – adj.+noun {two words} (We do not have any time for her.) Can you conceivably use this sentence without the word “any”? If so, use the two-word version.

  • anytime – adv., at any time whatever. (We will see her anytime.) This applies to ALL words that begin with “any” -they often are all one word, depending on usage.

  • apophysis, n., a projecting part of a bone.

  • epiphysis, n., the end of a long bone,, usually wider than the long portion of the bone, either composed of cartilage or separated from the shaft by a disk of cartilage.

  • hypophysis, n., pituitary gland (hypophysis cerebri); pharyngeal hypophysis (a mass in the wall of the pharynx similar in appearance to the hypophysis).

  • hypothesis, n., a theory that appears to explain certain phenomena, and is used as the basis of experimentation and reasoning to prove the theory.

  • appose, v., to set one thing beside the other. “I apposed the wound with 2-0 silk.”

  • oppose, v., to be on the opposite side of an argument/debate. “He opposed the use of force.”

  • apposition, n., setting of one thing beside the other, as in suturing wounds, (“The skin was in apposition…”) or “infant skull sutures in apposition.”

  • opposition, n., act of being opposite. “Thumb and index finger in opposition.

  • assure, vt., to make sure of. Syn: ensure.

  • ensure, vt., to make certain of. Syn: assure. “Hemostasis was ensured (or assured).” Also, a brand name of a dietary supplement when capitalized.

  • insure, vt. To guarantee protection; used mostly in a monetary sense.

  • attain, v., to reach as an end, to achieve, to get to a certain goal or position.

  • obtain, v., to gain, to possess, usually by planned effort.

  • aural, adj., pertaining to the ear or sense of hearing. Sounds like oral, which pertains to the mouth.

  • auricle, n., the ear.

  • oracle, n. one who predicts the future and/or gives advice.

  • bare, naked, nude, denuded. Can be a noun (The patient is bare) or a verb (…to bare her soul).

  • bear – 1. noun – A large furry animal. 2.verb – Patient is able to bear weight.

  • Bair hugger – a plastic warming blanket.

  • bearhugger – A term describing someone who gives big hugs.

  • basal – pertaining to the base.

  • basil – an herb.

  • Beaver – blade; knife; keratome; a trade name.

  • beaver – a semiaquatic animal.

  • Beevor – a medical sign. See under SIGN in Dorland’s.

  • Deaver – trade name for a retractor.

  • breath, n., the expiration of air; the faculty of breathing.

  • breathe, v., to pause and rest before continuing. To draw air into and expel it from the lungs.

  • born, adj., relating to birth.

  • borne, part of verb to bear. e.g. “The test was borne out by physical examination.

  • cabbage, n., a green leafy vegetable.

  • CABG, (pronounced “cabbage”) – an acronym for coronary artery bypass graft.

  • Cain, The name of the first recorded murderer, also part of the expression “…raise Cain.

  • cane, n., (1) a walking stick. (2) a type of plant.

  • callous, adj., hard; like callus.

  • callus, n., AKA callosity, localized hyperplasia of the horny layer of epidermis due to pressure or friction.

  • carotene, n., the yellow or red coloring found in egg yolk, carrots, etc.

  • creatine, n., a nitrogenous substance found the muscles, brain, and blood of vertebrates.

  • creatinine, n., found in muscle and blood, excreted in the urine. keratin, n., a highly insoluble protein (scleroprotein) in epidermis, hair, nails, and part of the teeth.

  • caudate, adj., having a tail, such as sperm cells, caudate lobe, etc.

  • chordate, adj., having a notochord (in fetus).

  • CAT – acronym for computerized axial tomography.

  • cat – a furry animal of the feline family.

  • Cat – Trade name for a highway construction vehicle.

  • checkup, see followup.

  • chord, n., a musical phrase; a Latin form of cord.

  • cord, n., a rope or rope-like structure or sinew, vocal cords, etc.

  • cite, v.t., to bring forward, as for illustration; to quote; to summon to appear as in citation. To relate an incident; “she cited the history in a quiet manner.”

  • sight, n., (Oph) vision; what your eyes have.

  • site, n., a place or position, as “The site of the abscess was noted.”

  • claustrum – the thin layer of gray matter between the white matter of the external capsule and the extreme capsule of the brain.

  • colostrum, n., the thin, milky fluid which is secreted by the mammary glands around the time of parturition.

  • circumduction, the rotational movement, active or passive, of an eye or of an extremity.

  • sursumduction, upward movement of only one eye in testing for vertical divergence. Unless the dictation is quite specific, it is often difficult to tell this from circumduction. Also referred to as supraduction, superduction, and supravergence.

  • coarse, adj., meaning rough, vulgar, harsh.

  • course, n., a pathway, such as a race course, or the course of events, such as course of a disease.

  • complement, n., something that fills up, completes. or makes perfect, as “The baby has a full complement of fingers and toes.” Also used in lab test, complement fixation.

  • compliment, n., an expression of esteem. respect, or admiration. A flattering remark.

  • cor, n., the heart.

  • core, n., the central part of something; v.t., to take out the core of something.

  • corps (pronounced “core”), n., corpus; also a group or body of individuals organized and under common direction; Marine Corps, Medical Corps, etc.

  • council, n., an assembly or meeting for consultation, advice or recommendations.

  • counsel, vt., to give professional advice., n., advice, especially that given at a time of consultation.

  • cystitome (Oph) – an instrument used to open the capsule of the lens of the eye. The cystitome spelled with the letter “i” pertains to the eye.

  • cystotome (Urol) – an instrument used for incising the bladder.

  • Coke – a commercial soft drink.

  • Kock – In urology, name of a pouch created during surgery. Pronounced “coke.”

  • decision, n., the settling of a controversy; a conclusion arrived at, as of choices, or a controversy.

  • discission, n., the incision or cutting into, as of a capsule of a cataract, or the cervix uteri.

  • diaphysis, n., the shaft of a long bone between the ends (the epiphyses).

  • diastasis, n., separation (or dislocation) of two bones that are normally attached without the presence of a true joint; sometimes refers to the separation of muscles, as in diastasis recti abdominis.

  • diathesis, n., constitution of the body that predisposes one to certain diseases, as in, “The patient appeared to have a hemorrhagic diathesis, although there was no family history of hemophilia.” Also, “No familial diatheses were reported.”

  • discreet, adj., circumspect, prudent, good judgment.

  • discrete, adj., separate, composed of distinct parts or discontinuous elements. As in, “There were large discrete nodules noted.” A way to remember this is to note that the letter “T” separates the two “Es” in this word.

  • dyskaryosis – aberrant nuclear arrangement or structure; may be seen in malignancy or cell death.

  • dyskeratosis – aberrant keratin production and/or disposition.

  • dysphagia, n., difficulty in swallowing. Think of phagocytes, which are cells that “eatother cells – lymphs.

  • dysphasia, n., impairment or loss of the power to use or understand speech; caused by disease of, or injury to the brain (such as in a stroke).

  • ear, n., – Be careful not to confuse with “air” in such phrases as “air-bone gap,” in audiology (NEVER “ear-bone gap,” or “air-borne gap”).

  • elicit, v.t., to draw out, as in “We could elicit little information as to the patient’s past medical history.”

  • illicit, adj., unlawful, improper, not permitted, as in, “The patient denies use of illicit drugs.”

  • every day, meaning “each day.” (Two words, no matter how the Toyota advertisements spell it.)

  • everyday, adj., meaning common, generic. “He wore his everyday clothes to church.” MUST precede a noun.

  • exacerbate, v., to make worse

  • exacerbation, n., a flaring up or making worse. “The rash was exacerbated by cold weather.”

  • exasperation – n., the state of being exasperated or frustrated, sort of like a proofreader feels when the word is substituted for exacerbation.

  • flare, flareup, n. and adj., (one word) in medicine can refer to a redness/flaring of the skin; also used in such expressions as “flareup” (of a disease).

  • flare up, v., (two words) used with any expression of the verb “to be”; e.g., “Her condition will flare up when she is stressed.”

  • flair, n., talent, as in “He has a flair for…” – style – There is a certain flair to her mode of dress.”

  • flexor, n. and adj., a muscle that flexes a joint.

  • flexure, n., the bent part of an organ or structure, e.g. sigmoid flexure.

  • FOLLOWUP – As a noun, it is all one word. Examples: The patient will be seen in followup. She will have a followup.

  • FOLLOW UP – The verb is two words. Usually, a form of the verb “to be” is somewhere in the sentence, as follows: The patient is to follow up with Dr. Smith. I will follow up the patient in two weeks.

  • FOLLOW-UP – As an adjective. The purist will use a hyphenated form for the compound adjective. However, from many years’ usage, it is generally accepted in medicine, and elsewhere, to use the noun/adjective, one-word form. So, either one word or hyphenated is acceptable for adjective form of followup. The patient will have a follow-up (or followup) examination. ?Follow-up (or followup) studies will be done. Incidentally, CHECKUP, FLAREUP and WORKUP (three more great medical words!) follow the same principle.

  • foul – adj., (1) Offensive to the senses, as a foul odor, foul play. (2) Out of bounds, such as foul ball.

  • fowl – n., a bird of any kind, especially a domestic chicken, duck, goose or turkey.

  • galactorrhea – n., abnormal flow of breast milk.

  • galacturia – n., milk-like appearance to the urine.

  • gauge, n., a standard measure, as of wire; v.t., to find the exact measurement of.

  • gouge, n., a hollow chisel used for cutting or removing bone or cartilage; v.t. to scoop out, as with a gouge.

  • hart, n., a type of deer

  • heart, n., the center of the vascular system of mammals, essentially a pump, cf cor.

  • hippocampus, n., a “horned” part of the brain.

  • hippopotamus, n., a large herbivorous “river horse” of African inland waters.

  • humeral, adj., pertaining to the humerus bone.

  • humoral, adj., referring to a body fluid (such as a hormone).

  • humor, n., 1. something funny. 2. a bodily fluid (such as lymph). 2a. fluid or juice from an animal or plant.

  • humors, n., pl. the body fluids

  • humorous, adj., characterized by humor.

  • humerus, n., a long bone of the upper arm.

  • hyper-, prefix meaning excessive, above, beyond.

  • hypo-, prefix meaning deficient, decrease, under, beneath, below.

  • ileum, n., the part of the small intestine located between the jejunum and the large intestine. Ref: ileus, ileac (when referring to the intestine).

  • ilium, n., the superior portion of the hip bone. Ref: iliac artery.

  • incite, v., to cause to happen, as to incite a riot.

  • insight, n., the ability to see within oneself, one’s motives, seeing intuitively.

  • infra- prefix, meaning under, beneath, below.

  • inner, adj., that part closest to the center, or within. (Sometimes dictated instead of intra-, but not really preferred.) inter-, prefix, meaning between.

  • intra-, prefix, meaning within (sometimes dictated as inner, which is okay, but not really preferred).

  • intralocular, adj., within the loculus of a structure (rarely used).

  • intraocular, adj., within the eye.

  • its — possessed by something; “The bear could not pick up its shadow.”

  • its — A contraction of it is. If you can substitute “it is” in the sentence, then this is the form to use.

  • knot – a tie or twist, such as in suture knots; a node/ganglion; a difficult situation, such as Gordian knot.

  • naught – nothing; “all for naught.”

  • not – negative.

  • loath adj., reluctant, unwilling. “The patient is loath to undertake surgery at this time.

  • loathe v., dislike intensely; hate; detest.

  • lookout, n. (one word) a person who stands watch against danger.

  • look out, v., (two words) a warning of danger

  • loop, n., doubling back or fold, of a cord or cordlike or tubelike structure, as a loop of bowel.

  • loupe, n., a magnifying lens, often referred to in cystoscopies, and in surgery where a magnifying glass is required, such as cataract surgery (pronounced “loop”).

  • loose, adj., not rigidly fastened or securely attached.

  • lose, v., to miss from one’s possession or customary place; to fail to win or gain.

  • malleolus, n., the rounded lateral projections of the bone at the ankle.

  • malleus, n., the outermost of three small bones in the ear.

  • marital, adj., pertaining to marriage.