Health Literacy Thesaurus: Medical terms, phrases, references,
and their Plain English equivalents or definitions

C (cancer - cystitis)

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capacitysize, amount something holds, ability, space, number open
cardiologistheart doctor
cardiologymedical department that treats heart problems
cardiovascularhaving to do with the heart and blood vessels
cariescavities, tooth decay
carriersomeone who is sick and can get other people sick; animal that is sick and can make other animals sick
cartilagethe smooth covering on the end of bones
case fatality ratiohow many people die from a disease
cataractsa clouding of the eye that makes it hard for people to see, cloudy eyesight, cloudy vision
catastrophedisaster, tragedy
causal associationcauses, leads to, can cause causes your body to react
cauterizeto burn a piece of the skin or tissue (usually to stop bleeding)
ceaseend, stop, quit
censureblame, punish
Centers for Disease Control and PreventionCDC
central nervous systembrain and spinal cord
cerebral hemorrhagestroke
cerebrovascular diseasestroke
cervixthe lower part of the uterus
cessationstopping, quitting, ending
characteristicmark, trait, feature
characterizetell about, describe, define
chroniclong term, long-lasting
chronic diseaselong-lasting disease, disease that lasts for years
chronic health conditionconstant health problem, something that effects your health for a long period of time
chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaselung disease, such as asthma or emphysema
chronicconstant, never ending, does not go away, long term, lasting a long time
circulationblood flow, flow of blood through the body
circumstanceevent, situation, facts
cladea group of animals that can all get the same disease
clientyou, name of person
clinicalwork, studies, a medical setting that involves patients
clinicalmedical, work or studies in a medical setting that involve patients
clinically illsick, diseased
close proximitynear, near by, close, close to
coagulateclot, set, clump together
coerceforce, make, press
cognizantaware, know about, think of
colicstomach pain, sick, baby with upset tummy
collaboratework together, team up, help each other
comatosein a coma
combination vaccinea vaccine that helps stop more than one type of disease
commencestart, begin
communicablecatching, can be spread, can be passed to other people, can make other people sick
communicatetell, say, call, write, talk to
community immunitythe protection people who aren’t vaccinated get when most other people in their community are vaccinated
comparablelike, similar, almost the same as
compensatemake up, pay, reward
competentskillful, able, well trained
completefinish, fill out, end
completionend, finish
complydo, follow, give in, obey
componentpart, section
comprehensivecomplete, covers everything important, thorough, all
comprisebe made up of, include
compulsionwant, urge, desire
conceiveimagine, think up
concerningabout, for, on
concludeend, finish
conclusivedefinite, final, last
concuragree, feel the same way
conditiona medical problem, a disease, an illness
conditioningphysical training, training your body, fitness
conductdo, carry on, run
congenitalborn with, inborn
conjugate vaccinea specific type of vaccine
conjunctivitiseye infection, pink eye, swelling and redness around your eyes
conscientiouscareful, thoughtful
consequentlyso, which means that, as a result
consistentstays the same
conspicuousplain to see, obvious
constitutemade of, form, make up
constructmake, build
consulttalk with, ask, talk to, see, meet
consumeeat, drink, use up
contacttalk to, call, write, talk with, get in touch with
contagious diseasean illness that spreads to others, a disease that you can give to other people, a disease that can make other people sick
contagiouscatching, spreading, able to make others sick, spreadable, a disease that can be spread from one person to another; someone who is sick and might make you sick too; sick
containhave, keep together
contaminantpollutant, poison, harmful ingredient, harmful chemical
contaminatespoil, infect, dirty, poison, pollute, taint
contemplatethink about, consider
continueto keep on, still, remain
contraceptivebirth control
contractarrange, agree, make smaller and shorter
contraindicationdangerous to give, not good for, when a drug or procedure may be harmful
contributehelp, give
controlmanage, have power over, take care of
convenienteasy to use, on hand, handy, useful
convulsionseizure, spasm
co-operatehelp, work together, assist
COPDChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, emphysema, a lung disease that makes breathing hard
coronary heart diseaseheart disease
coronary thrombosisheart attack
correspondagree with, match, write, email
corroborateconfirm, agree with
corticosteroidsasthma drug, asthma medicine
cot deathSIDS, sudden infant death syndrome
cough etiquettehow to cough or sneeze
countermeasuresdrugs to help fight sickness; flu shots; vaccines
crib deathSIDS, sudden infant death syndrome
criterionsign, standard
Crohn’s Diseasedigestion disease
cureheal, fix, make better; make completely better
currentlynow, at this moment, right now
cushingoidsigns of high doses of medicine, drug
cutaneousskin related, about the skin
cystitisinfection causing pain when you urinate

Source: CDC Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications. Other related materials: Vaccines & Immunizations Glossary; Harvard School of Public Health "Plain Language Glossaries" for asthma, arthritis, and lupus; Medical Library Association "Deciphering Medspeak" for diabetes, stroke, and HIV-AIDS

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