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English Vocabulary for ESL learners 


Medical words and terms relating to diseases and illnesses, with their meaning.

  • Care home / Nursing home
    • A place providing accommodation and care for people who are unable to look after themselves.

  • Confinement
    • A situation in which people are forced to stay in a place they cannot leave.

  • Contagious
    • Easily trasmitted by bodily contact with an infected person.

  • Covid-19
    • Official name given to the coronavirus disease which emerged in 2019.

  • Critical condition
    • State of health requiring immediate and constant medical monitoring and attention.

  • Disease
    • A medical disorder caused by bacteria or infection.

  • Epidemic
    • A disease affecting a large number of people in a particular area.

  • Flatten the curve
    • Slow down the rate of infection or reduce the number of people who contract the disease.

  • Hand sanitiser
    • Alcohol-based liquid or gel used to decrease infectious agents on the hands.

  • Hazmat suit
    • A whole-body garment that protects against dangerous substances.
      (Hazmat = abbreviation for ‘hazardous material’).

  • Illness
    • A broad term meaning that you are in a poor state of heath. Can be used to refer to long and short-term ailments.

  • Immune system
    • A natural system that protects your body from diseases and infections.

  • Infection
    • An illness that is caused by bacteria or a virus.

  • Intensive care
    • Refers to a hospital unit where patients are given continuous monitoring or care.

  • Isolation
    • Being separated from other people in order to avoid contagion.

  • Life-threatening
    • Describes an illness or disease that is so serious that the patient's life is in danger.

  • Lockdown
    • A security measure taken during an emergency to prevent people from leaving or entering places.

  • Mask
    • A covering worn over the nose and mouth to protect against infection.

  • Outbreak
    • The sudden start or eruption of something (war, fire, disease…).

  • Pandemic
    • A disease that affects many people in a large geographical area.

  • Peak
    • Reach the highest level.

  • Quarantine
    • The isolation of people who are exposed to a contagious disease to prevent it from spreading.

  • Sickness
    • Less formal than ‘illness’, the word 'sickness' usually refers to short-term ailments (such as a cold or a sore throat) and/or a feeling of nausea.

  • Social distancing
    • Staying at home as much as possible, avoiding crowds and social gatherings, and keeping a distance of at least 1 metre between yourself and anyone else.

  • Symptoms
    • Signs of illness shown by changes in the body.

  • Treatment
    • Medical care given to a patient.

  • Vaccine
    • Injection of a killed microbe in order to stimulate the immune system against the microbe, thereby preventing the disease.

  • Ventilator
    • A machine that helps patients breathe correctly by allowing air to flow in and out of their lungs.

  • Virus
    • A microorganism that causes minor and major diseases.

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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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