Dictionary Help

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Dictionary Help

Medical Dictionary
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Medical Dictionary
Dictionary Help
Dictionary Help
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Dictionary Help
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2007-05-31
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2009-05-31

Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary

Table of Contents

Back to Search

Quick Reference Tables

Getting Started FAQ: Basic User Instructions

Dictionary Search Options


 

Quick Reference Tables

Search Fields
Each type of information in the Medical Dictionary (e.g., entry word definition, part of speech) is displayed in its own field. The table below describes the fields in the dictionary a and identifies the information you can search for in each field.


Search Fields

Use this field: If you want to look up
Main Entry A word or phrase.
Partial Word Words where you know some letters, but not others.
Function Words with a certain function (e.g., trademark) or part of speech.
Usage Words with special usage (e.g., slang), words from the English of a particular region (e.g., Scottish), or words with special uses in a particular field (e.g., law).
Definition All definitions containing a given word or words.
Verbal Illustration Examples of a word used in context.
Authors Quoted Quotes by a specific author.
Biographical Paragraph Paragraphs describing individuals whose names have contributed words to the medical vocabulary.

See Dictionary Search Options for more details on each of the search options in the table.

Program Commands
The following table gives an overview of the program commands for the dictionary and thesaurus.


If you want to:

Use this command:

Clear the search form Click on the on-screen Clear button
Move cursor to the next field Press TAB or click in new field
Move cursor to the previous field SHIFT+TAB or click in new field
Start a search Click on the on-screen Search button
Look up a word in the Results List Single-click on the word, then click on the on-screen Go To button
Look at an illustration or table Single-click on the highlighted link at the end of the related entry
Print an entry Use the browser?s Print function
Copy text Use the browser?s Copy function

 

Getting Started FAQ: Basic User Instructions

This overview offers answers to some of the most frequently asked questions for new users of the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary. You might find it helpful to print this section and keep it beside your computer as a handy quick-reference companion.

How do I look up a word?
To look up a word:

  • Position the cursor in Main Entry field.
  • Type the word.
  • Click on Search.

What are fields and how can I use them?
Fields are the rectangular boxes on the computer screen that are used to search for or display distinct kinds of information in the dictionary (e.g., definition, pronunciation, part of speech).

The Search Fields Table in the Quick Reference Tables section of this guide gives a brief overview of all of the search fields available in the Medical Dictionary and what they are used for.

Follow these steps to look up a word or phrase in any field of the Medical Dictionary..

  • Clear the results of any previous search by clicking on Clear or New Search.
  • Put the cursor in the field you want to use.
  • Type the word or phrase.
  • Click on the Search button.

What are the pull-down menus at the end of the search fields?
The arrows at the ends of the Main Entry and Definition fields provide access to other search choices available for those fields. Under the Main Entry field, for instance, you can also choose Partial Word, which allows you to search for words using a partial spelling and wildcards.

Examples:

How do I use fields to help me find what I'm looking for?
Here are some examples of how to use certain of the fields to help find certain information.

Main Entry:

  • You are looking for the definition of the word pulmonary.

What to do:
Type pulmonary in the Main Entry field and press enter. You can use this field to look up words just as you would use any dictionary.

Partial Word:

  • While transcribing a physician's notes, you come across a word you can only partially make out, such as ulcer[several illegible letters]-nous.

What to do:
Select Partial Word from the drop-down list at the end of the Main Entry field, and type ulcer*mous. All words that begin and end with the letters you typed will appear in the Results List (e.g., ulceromembranous)

NOTE: * is the wildcard character representing any number of unknown letters. For more information, see the section on Wildcard Characters.

Function:

  • While reading a medical report, you want a list of medical abbreviations you can consult so you can quickly check the expansion of several abbreviations used in the text.

What to do:
Function refers to the part of speech (e.g., noun) of a word, but also the role that a word fills in a sentence (e.g., abbreviation). Physicians often use multiple abbreviations in an effort to speed up the delivery of information in the transcription process. Type abbreviation in the Function field to obtain a complete list of abbreviations commonly used in medical records and reports.

Usage:

  • Before attending a medical conference in England, you want to find out more about medical terms that have distinct uses in British English.

What to do:
Usage notes convey information about how, where and under what circumstances a word is used. Type British in the Usage field to find all of the words entered in the Medical Dictionary that have a special British use.

Definition:

  • A nurse practitioner is reviewing a test for a patient with an excessive number of lymphocytes in a CBC. She wants to research this condition and is putting together a list of related terms for on-line searching in her research.

What to do:
Type lymphocytes in the Definition field to generate a list of related words that can be used to prepare a list of related keywords for searching.

You can also use this feature to develop lists of related words for use in on-line searching. For instance, in researching medical imaging on the Internet, you can quickly compile a list of related search terms by typing imaging into the definition field. You will several related words to search with.

How can I look up a word if I don?t know how to spell it?
If you misspell the word you are trying to look up, the program will automatically display a list of words that sound like or that are spelled similarly to the word you typed. If you see your word in the list of suggestions, simply highlight it and click on Go To to see its entry.

TIP: If you aren't sure how to spell a word, try spelling it the way it sounds. The spelling help feature will looks for words that sound like one you have typed.

What is the Results List and how can I use it?
After you look up a word, you see a dictionary entry and, in many cases, a Results List. The Results List shows all the entries containing the word, phrase, or date you searched for. If you want to see the entry for any word in the Results List, follow these steps.

  • Click on the word
  • Click Go To.

The words in the Results List are generally in alphabetical order, with homographs for the word listed first, followed by compounds containing the word. If you search for a term that is also a proper name, place name, or abbreviation, the Results List will show those terms after the general vocabulary words.

The complete entry for the first word in the Results List is automatically displayed.

Homographs. Homographs are words that are spelled the same but that are entered separately in the dictionary because they differ in pronunciation, derivation, or part of speech. For more information about homographs, see the Explanatory Notes for the Medical Dictionary.

If more than one homograph exists for a word you look up, the program will list each homograph in the Results List, with the part of speech of each homograph shown in brackets next to the word.

How do I clear the search screen?
You can clear all fields in the search form by clicking on the Clear button.

How do I start a new search?
After you have looked up a word, you can quickly return to the search screen by clicking on New Search.

What are those blue words within definitions?
Underscored blue words within definitions are hyperlinked cross-references. To see the entry for a linked term, click on the blue word.

What are wildcard characters and how can I use them?
When you search the dictionary, you can use the asterisk * (which represents any group of characters) and question mark ? (which represents any one character) as wildcard characters to help you look up a word if you don't know all of the letters in it. For example, if you search for m?n in the Main Entry field will find man and men, as well as the abbreviation min. A search for m*n will find those entries, plus maceration, malnutrition, manic depression, memory span, and many other words and phrases that begin with the letter m and end with the letter n.

Can I search in more than one field at a time?
Yes you can. Simply type the appropriate word in each field you want to include in your search, then click Search.

How do I print an entry or illustration?
You can print an entry or illustration using the browser?s Print function. If you need help adjusting the printer settings for your browser, consult the documentation that came with it or contact your system administrator. Note that the Results List cannot be printed.

How do I copy and paste text?
You can copy or paste text using your browser's Copy and Paste functions. If you need help adjusting the copy settings for your browser, check its Help menu or contact your system administrator.

What are the Explanatory Notes?
The Explanatory Notes explain the types of information in the Medical Dictionary conventions used in displaying that information in HTML.

Dictionary Search Options

Main Entry Searches
You can use the Main Entry field to look up a main entry in the dictionary (i.e., the boldfaced words you look up in the book). When you search in the Main Entry field, the program finds the word you looked up, as well as any other entries that include that word. For example, if you look up the word elbow in the Main Entry field, the program will find the entry for elbow and any homographs, as well as the entries for compounds and phrases that include the word elbow (e.g., tennis elbow, pitcher's elbow).

For more information on dictionary main entries, see the section on Entries in the Explanatory Notes.

Note that you can use the wildcard characters * and ? in your searches in the Main Entry field, as well as in all other fields of the dictionary. For more information, see the section Wildcard Searches.

Partial Word Searches
The Main Entry field includes a drop-down list with the Partial Word search option, which you can access by clicking on the down arrow at the end of the Main Entry field. The Partial Word option is designed to help you look up a word when you know only some of the letters in a word.

The Entry Word option is the default search.

In a Partial Word search, you type the letters you know in a word and use the wildcard symbol ? to represent letters you do not know. The program will find a list of words that could solve your puzzle. For example, the pattern ???gen??? results in 21 nine-letter words in which the middle three letters are gen.

To conduct a Partial Word search:

  • Select Partial Word from the drop-down menu of the Main Entry field.
  • Insert the cursor in the Main Entry field.
  • Type the letters and question marks representing the word.
  • Click Search.

Function Label Searches
In Merriam-Webster dictionaries, function labels identify a word?s part of speech or provide other information about how it functions in the language. You can use Function field searches to look up words by their part of speech (e.g., pronoun, prefix, interjection) or other function label (e.g., trademark, abbreviation, and plural in construction). See the Functional Labels section of the Explanatory Notes for more information about function labels.

To perform a search in the Function field:

  • Insert the cursor in the Function field.
  • Type the functional label you want to search.
  • Click Search.

WARNING!

A search for extremely common parts of speech, such as noun, will bring back thousands of entries. In some cases, your computer or server may hang trying to retrieve such huge word lists. To avoid this problem, make your search as specific as possible.

Usage Label Searches
In Merriam-Webster dictionaries, usage labels provide information about how a word is typically used in speech or writing. You can use Usage field searches to look for all the words that carry labels indicating that they are used in a certain way (e.g., that they are slang), or that are most often used in a certain place (e.g., British), or that have specialized uses in a particular subject area (e.g., bones, law, tissue). See the section on Usage Labels in the Explanatory Notes for more information about usage labels.

To perform a search in the Usage field:

  • Insert the cursor in the Usage field.
  • Type the usage label you want to search.
  • Click Search.

TIP: If you don?t get the results you expect in a Usage field search, try searching in the Definition field. Some usage labels are included within the defining text rather than in their own field.

Definition Searches
The Definition field, which is not labeled on the screen, appears at the bottom of the dictionary screen. It displays definitions and related information, such as illustrative quotations and short biographies of people connected with the defined term. You can use the Definition field to search through the text of definitions and related information (e.g., biographical paragraphs) in the Definition field.

For example, if you were researching the spleen, you might want to see all the entries in the dictionary that have to do with that organ (and which therefore include the word spleen in their definition). You could find those words by searching for spleen in the Definition field.

To search in the Definition field:

  • Insert the cursor in the Text field.
  • Type the word you want to find.
  • Click Search.

The program will automatically look for inflected forms of the search word as well as the base word. For example, if you search for infect in the Definition field, the Results List will include all entries whose definitions contain infect, infects, infecting, infected, infectious, infections, or infective.

Searching for More Than One Word in a Definition. You can search for two or more words at the same time in the Definition field. For example, searching for joint inflammation in this field generates a list of all the entries whose definitions include both joint and inflammation (although not necessarily adjacent to one another or in that order).

Like the Main Entry field, the Definition field has an arrow that allows you to access a drop-down menu including the following search options.

  • Verbal Illustration
  • Authors Quoted
  • Biographical

To perform one of the optional searches in the Definition field, follow these steps:

  • Click on the down arrow at the end of the Definitionfield.
  • Select the search option you want.
  • Position the cursor in the Definition field and type the word or name you want to use in your search.
  • Click Search.

The Defining Text option is the default search.

Verbal Illustration Searches
You can use Verbal Illustration searches to find sample phrases, sentences, or quotations showing how a word is typically used.

To conduct a Verbal Illustration search:

  • Select Verbal Illustration from the drop-down menu of the Definition field.
  • Insert the cursor in the Definition field.
  • Type the word you want example phrases, sentences, or quotations for.
  • Click Search.

Authors Quoted Searches
You can use an Authors Quoted search to locate all of the quotes by an author that appear in the dictionary.

To conduct an Authors Quoted search:

  • Select Authors Quoted from the drop-down menu of the Definition field.
  • Insert the cursor in the Definition field.
  • Type the last name of the author you want to search for. Be sure to capitalize the name.
  • Click Search.

This program will only search for surnames, not first names or courtesy titles such as Dr. or Ms. Remember to capitalize the author's last name. In addition, quotes in the dictionary may be taken from publications, as well as from individuals. Thus, you can search for quotes from publications such as Lancet and Psychological Abstracts.

Biographical Paragraph Searches
A number of entries in the dictionary include brief biographies of people who discovered, invented, or otherwise influenced the subject of the entry. You can use a Biographical search to find out if a name or word is included in one of these paragraphs. For more information about the content of Biographical Paragraphs, see the Explanatory Notes .

To conduct a Biographical Paragraph search:

  • Select Biographical Paragraph from the drop-down menu of the Definition field.
  • Insert the cursor in the Definition field.
  • Type the word you want to find a synonymy paragraph for.
  • Click Search.

Searching in More Than One Field
Suppose you want to find abbreviations for various types of acids. You can find those words by performing a multiple-field search. In this kind of search, you type words into two or more fields and the computer looks for entries containing all of the words or dates you have specified.

To conduct a multiple-field search, follow these steps.

  • Clear the results of any previous search by clicking on Clear.
  • Position the cursor in the first field you want to search.
  • Type the word or date you want to search.
  • Move the cursor to the next field you want to include in your search and type the word or date you want to search.
  • Repeat steps 2-4 above for all the fields you want to use.
  • After you type the final word or date for your search, click Search.

For example, to search for abbreviations for various acids, you would insert abbreviation in the Function field and acid in the Definition field, then click Search.

Wildcard Characters
Wildcard characters help you look up words when you aren?t sure how to spell them, when you need to look up a partial word, or when you want to find all the words that have a group of letters in common. Two wildcard characters are available:


Wildcard

Represents

?

Any single character

*

Any string of characters

Examples. A search for m?n in the Main Entry field will find man and men as well as the abbreviations min. A search for m*n will find those entries, and will also find maceration, malnutrition, manic depression, memory span, and many other words that begin with m and end with n.

WARNING!
Searches that include wildcards can produce very large Results Lists that may take a long time to display or that may even cause the server to time out your search. Searches for terms that begin with wildcard characters will take the longest.

Searching for Inflected Forms
An inflected form of a word is a form that shows the case, number, gender, tense, or other grammatical distinction of the word. For example, the plural of a noun and the past tense of a verb are inflected forms. For more about inflected forms, see the Explanatory Notes .

If you try to look up an inflected form of a word, the program will automatically display the main entry of the word that is the basis for the inflected form. As a result, if you look up the plural spines, the program will display the entry for spine, the appropriate singular form. This special search capability works in most cases, but there may be times when you will try to find a valid regular inflected form and the program will fail to recognize it. In such cases the program will automatically open to a page showing entries that fall alphabetically close to the inflected form you have typed. You will probably see the base form of your search word near the top of the list, although occasionally you may have to scroll through the list to find your word.

 


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Last updated May 31, 2007


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