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Quick Overview

A quality medical dictionary is always good to have on hand. Whether you are a student in the midst of your studies, or a healthcare professional at work, having a reliable resource there when you need it, is extremely valuable.

There are loads of dictionaries available, however, and knowing which one to buy can be confusing. While the prices do not vary that much, the focus can range considerably.

There’s also the manner in which the information is provided and organized.

When getting your hands on a new medical dictionary, there a few things to consider. Firstly, is the content of the book directed at your needs and skill set.

A student needing to learn medical terminology for an upcoming exam will be looking for something different from a healthcare professional that wants a comprehensive resource for the office.

There’s also the form that the writers have taken to deliver the content. Dictionaries used as study aids should be designed to assist with recall and understanding.

Dictionaries aimed at practitioners should offer concise information in an easy-to-find way.

Also, have the publishers prioritized images and photographs. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, pictorial resources can be invaluable in clarifying information.

In this review roundup, I have provided insight into some of the best medical dictionaries currently available. There’s something here for both students and professionals, I hope after reading this you are able to get the resource that you are looking for.

Medical Dictionaries Reviewed

1. TOP PICK: Mosby’s Medical Dictionary

Mosby’s Medical Dictionary is an excellent one-stop reference guide with over 56,000 definitions and 2,450 visual aids.

A combination of photographs and line drawings, along with well-written definitions that are easy to understand, make this one of the best medical dictionaries currently available.

It will undoubtedly help you become familiar with the different medical terms related to your role. If you are a student, the dictionary is comprehensive enough to be a real asset for your assignments.

The supporting reference appendixes and atlases are organized in a coherent, intuitive manner too.

Being a hardcover-bound book means you can throw it in your nurses or college bag, knowing it won’t damage easily.

All said and done, the Mosby’s Medical Dictionary is a top-quality reference for both students and professionals. My top choice dictionary for good reason.

2. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary

Dorland’s is an age-old name when it comes to medical publishing.

The first dictionary in Dorland’s line was the American Pocket Medical Dictionary, published back in 1898.

Their Illustrated Dictionary is now in its 33rd edition, meaning this has been around for a long time too.

Helping medical students and professionals for generations, this continues to be one of the most comprehensive and highly respected medical dictionaries on the market.

For this reason (it is very wordy), it is best suited for those looking for fully abridged use.
The dictionary contains over 125,000 entries, accompanied by 50 plates illustrating anatomy, and a whopping 1,500 full-color illustrations.

All this info does come at a cost mind you, the book is a tome. Weighing in at approximately 9 lbs, this is a desk aid rather than a throw in your bag for lectures-type deal.

Highly recommended nonetheless.

3. BUDGET CHOICE: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

For a low budget, concise yet packed full of terms, resource, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is an ideal choice.

This revised 2020 edition, features 225,000 definitions and 42,000 usage examples.

This American English example is so new it has been designed to assist in the current COVID-19 educational environment.

The publishers pitch this as an ideal accompaniment for homeschooling and remote learning. (It can also be used in Texas STAAR testing classrooms.) Predominantly used as a study aid, the special sections feature is really well thought out.

As the title suggests, Merriam-Webster‘s Collegiate is a college-level dictionary, so it is not suited to work practitioners.

However, if you are looking for a convenient, inexpensive dictionary to help you through your nursing clinical, this is definitely worth a look.

4. EASIEST TO USE: Medical Terminology For Dummies

Is there anything the guys over at “Dummies” won’t publish a guide on.

If you are familiar with the style (or even a fan), this colorful, easy-to-use medical terminology reference guide will certainly be of interest to you.

The book sets out to help readers get a grip with prefix, root, and suffix origins, clarify word foundations and provide an overall guide on medical terminologies.

Common jargon used in hospitals, pharmacies, and labs is also covered.

In fact, this is possibly one of the easiest ways to learn medical words whilst having a bit of fun.

Inside you will find handy tricks for memorizing words and their meanings. The book also sets out to help you help to pronounce words in the correct manner.

There are guides on context, as well as suggestions for quizzes, mnemonic devices, and even games.

A highly recommended reference aid for students, or non-healthcare professionals, working in a medical environment that would like to understand more.

5. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary

Taber‘s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary is another comprehensive resource that includes a long list of medical terms and explanations.

These include laboratory values and prefixes, suffixes, as well as combining forms. The information also covers abbreviations, symbols, and units of measurement.

For those looking for documentation system definitions, as well as details of complementary and alternative medicines, you will be well catered for using this dictionary.

Beyond all of this, nursing-focused resources are included too.

The information is delivered using a combination of detailed text, full-color illustrations, photography, and diagrams.

The dictionary includes sections on the following:

Patient Care Statements – This has quick-reference summaries, as well as detailed assessment, treatment, and patient teaching requirements.
Caution/Safety Statements – Inside you will find intuitive icon highlights that guide you on information critical to safe patient care.
Disease/Disorder Entries – Concise descriptions that aim to summarize diagnosis, with signs and symptoms, etiology, treatments, and prognosis included too.

Overall, a well-thought-out dictionary organized in a manner that will definitely appeal to medical professionals.

6. BEST FOR NURSES: Stedman’s Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing

We’re now into the seventh edition of the Stedman‘s Medical Dictionary, and it continues to be an excellent resource for nursing professionals.

Featuring more than 56,000 entries, the dictionary contains the medical terminology used in a wide range of health professional areas, (the publishers boast that it covers over 30 medical career disciplines).

A popular resource for nurses, the dictionary also focuses on a comprehensive list of entries applicable to the field of nursing.

Information is delivered in an easy-to-use way, with over 1,000 enriched color images and photographs.

There is also a glossy insert with images by the Anatomical Chart Company.

Over 65 appendices provide quick access details. The cut thumb tabs for quick A-to-Z reference is also a great feature.

With over 70 leading consultants assisting in the enhancements that went into this latest addition, the

from health professions and nursing contributed to the enhancements of this edition, the Stedman’s Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing is a resource you can trust.

7. Medical Terminology: A Living Language

The final book in my top 7 list is “Medical Terminology: A Living Language”

This guide offers a step-by-step approach to aid students in the study of medical terms, with comprehensive information on human anatomy, physiology, and their associated medical terms.

Designed specifically for medical students the book also includes tips and exercises to help you retain the important terms for exams and practical tests.

There are 14 streamlined chapters overall, with essential A&P topics covered throughout.

As a mid-sized book, the coverage is not as broad as some of the other resources in this review roundup, however, for a one-semester course in medical terminology, it is hard to beat.

Concise and to the point, it also wouldn’t look out of place on the desk of practicing professionals, looking for a helpful, quick-reference guide.

About Hannah Drake

Hannah Drake, RN, CSP is a registered nurse and owner and founder of Nurse Focus. Her nursing career spans almost two decades, and in that time she has developed her skill base across a variety of settings, including med surg nursing, clinical informatics system administration and implementation, and healthcare community management. Contact Hannah.

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