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.
|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.
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|
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.
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).
Follow these steps to look up a word or phrase in any field of the Medical Dictionary..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
To perform one of the optional searches in the Definition field, follow these steps:
The Defining Text option is the default search.
To conduct a Verbal Illustration search:
To conduct an Authors Quoted 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:
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.
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 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:
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.
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.