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A revised version of Hospital vocabulary for you to copy


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I have tried to edit this into a more organised form.

Administrative procedures

Acceuil (Reception)

Borne a sort of slot machine at the reception where you enter your 'carte Vitale'

Caution ( Deposit)

Chambre Particulière (single room)

Faire les etiquettes (give your details, and get some sticky labels which will be used later )

Bon de Transport (form to authorise transport costs, which you get from the Doctor or nurse. If an other examination such as a MRI scan is prescribed you need to ask he original Doctor, not he MRI technician)

VSL ( sit up ambulance)

Examinations you might have

echographie (ultrasound)

radio ( Xray)

IRM 'ee er em ' (a MRI scan)

la tension (blood pressure)

prise de sang (blood test)

globules rouges/blancs (white or red blood cells)


Douleur aigue  - Sharp pain

 avoir des démangeaisons (itching) ça gratte 'sa grat' (it itches)

des boutons (spots)

Une escarre or plaie de lit (bedsore)

Things you might be asked or hear

le poing 'pwan or pwang' serrez le poing  (fist, as in make a fist when having a blood test)

la plaie (wound)

le bloc (the operating theatre)

service (ward, as in service de chirugie, a surgical ward)

surveillante (the ward supervisor- Sister? )

peser, as in' je vous pèse' (weigh)

Je pique (said by the nurse as she puts the needle in)

la lame (a drain tube to let liquids out of the abdominal cavity)

de garde (on duty, usually a Doctor covering at weekends etc)

à jeun nil by mouth

"aller à la selle" =  to go to the toilet (number 2)

les selles (stools)

Procedures done to you

"faire une piqûre", or "piquer" = to give an injection =.

perfusion ( a drip, as in the arm)

les points 'pwan' (stitches)

Pansement (dressing)

une mèche ( a piece of gauze or dressing to hold open an infected wound and let it drain)

peser, as in' je vous pèse' (weigh)

sonde (a catheter)  although catheter (pronounced catetere also exists as in.....

pac  ' porte à catheter' a semi permanent catherter in the upper chest or neck for chemotherapy

Equipment used

Haricot ' areeco' (kidney bowl, for being sick)

Bassine (plastic bowl)

Bassine du lit (bedpan)

pistolet (plastic urinal for men in bed)

Pansement (dressing)

sparadrap 'sparadra' (sticking plaster

une protection/absorbex (absorbent tissue

potence 'the arm over the bed which you can hold onto)

bocal (a sort of jar to collect fluids or waste, often to be measured)

couche (a nappy )

Penilex ( a way of helping urinary incontinence in men with something like a condom with a tube to drain away the urine )

balance (scales as for weighing)

poche ( a bag, for example part of a stoma)

fauteuil (armchair/wheelchair)

compress (swab)

brancard /brancardier (stretcher, and porter)

Parts of the body

see http://www.maisondequartier.com/pedagogie/corps_voca/p_voca_corps.php

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Further to Norman's very helpful efforts, I have just looked at the "Dictionary of French Medical Terms" in paperback - with an introduction to the French medical system

French-English, and English-French.

It was published in 2007 by Summersdale (9.99 pounds), edited by Richard Whiting.

It looks really, really useful - if you can bear in mind that some things have changed since 2007 - for instance, an E121 is now an S1. But all the medical terms are the same

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  • 3 months later...
Well I too am sorry Allanb but I honestly found this very useful when I was in hospital, earlier this year.  It really gets my goat when people criticise others who are trying to offer assistance.  Negativity does not help matters.  Perhaps if you made some non negative suggestions it would be more useful.  There are certain things that are not even in a "good" dictionary.


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Sorry, I didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings.  I shouldn't have said "useless." But I think it's fair comment that if you're going into hospital you should probably equip yourself with more vocabulary than that.

I'm not sure I agree with what you say about the dictionary.  A dictionary should contain all the useful words, embarrassing or not.  If it doesn't, I would question whether it's a "good" one.

Just out of curiosity, if Norman's list did contain the words we're probably thinking about, would the forum publish it?

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It seemed to me that Norman's very useful little list might be a good place to start when LEARNING vocab' for use in hospital.  I think he's supplied an undaunting number of words which it might behove those facing a stay to swot up before they go.  Of course, they should take a dictionary too if they aren't confident with the language but they just struck me as the basics which it would be helpful to know, not simply a list to print out and take with you.  Better to have the everyday stuff in your head - it's not always easy to find and pick up a book or bit of paper if, for example, you're dying for a pee and don't know the word for a bedpan!
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  • 3 months later...
As the OP here, I have been incredibly grateful for the support given to us by people, completely unknown to us previously and especially NormanH, who have been in a similar position yet who have taken the time and trouble to unstintingly and spontaneously give the benefit of their advice and experiences. So if the hospital terminology list is not quite complete, who cares? It has been sent through with the same consideration and will probably prove to be beneficial. So once again, our sincere and heartfelt thanks to those who are willing and able to assist with sound advice on this forum. [Were it not for NormalH, we would not have known about ALD which has now been granted to us]. Un GRAND MERCI!!

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  • 1 month later...
Thanks Norman, your list came in very handy again with my stay in hospital last weekend.  Once again the French health service surpassed itself.  An amazingly positive experience, which could have been so different.  Well done Centre Oscar Lambret, Lille.


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We too are doing reasonably well : it is of course a long uphill struggle but today we have been invited out for lunch by friends with whom we sat by the lakeside on the restaurant terrace admiring the calm waters. My OH emptied the "accessory" before leaving, and again when we returned home, so we really feel that we are able, more or less, to start resuming our truncated lives. We still take each day as it comes : we have received the most amazing support from the CSF-Forum who have all been marvellous. Onwards and ever upwards eh?

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 year later...
[quote user="NormanH"]

globules rouges/blancs (white or red blood cells)

Sorry to restart this but I believe I may have spotted an error.

I wanted to specifically find what white blood cells were called with regards to Hematologie as they indicate infection so searched on "white blood cells" and this post came up. I have since discovered that they are called Leucocytes when it comes to reading your blood test results and not globules blancs which incidently we thought they were called as well.

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Globules blancs is the general name (like white blood cells in English)

There are several different sorts with different functions


Leucocytes is one of those types but is not the general name for all white blood cells.

Each type has a normal count and to understand the results properly you have to look at each.

After Chemotherapy for example I had a deficiency of neutrophils


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Well there is nothing called Globules blancs on the report from the lab just Leucocytes with sub categories and results under it which ties in with what you are saying. My point being that on both sets of results, one from the hospital and the other from the local lab, it says Leucocytes and not Globules blancs which was what we initially looked for and could not find on either set of results. Interestingly all the online dictionaries and our own Collins say it is Globules blanc but clearly it isn't according to both the lab and the hospital.

So under the main category there are the subcategories, which one does a doctor look at to detect an infection?

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The names white cells and leukocytes are really synonymous. The same as for red cells and erythrocytes. Reports from haematology quote results for leukocytes or erythrocytes. Medical staff will probably discuss using white cell or red cell terminology. As Norman says, there are other types of cell too. Hope this helps.

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I think I can see what has happened.

This list was intended to help when people talked to the staff in Hospital and so was non-technical.

The results from a Lab are technical and intended primarily for the Doctor who will then discuss them with the Patient, although of course in France the patient also gets a copy.

Globules blancs or rouges is the sort of simple language a Doctor might use just as in England the Doctor might say your white cell count is a bit low or high.

On the other hand on the report from the Lab you will see much more detail

On mine there is Hematologie (Analysis of the Blood) First there is a total red cell count

Then a list of values, with normal values to compare, of various types of Hematies  (red blood cells)


Hématocrite etc

then a list of different types of Leucocytes (white blood cells in the technical form)

again a total count followed by




this site can help interpret the white blood cell count. It is is English but the terms are similar



A low number of WBCs is called leukopenia. A WBC count below 4500 is below normal

One type of white blood cell is the neutrophil. This type of white blood cell is important for fighting infections.

  • An adult with who has fewer than 1700 neutrophils in a microliter of blood has a low white blood cell count.
  • If there are fewer than 500 neutrophils in a microliter of blood, the risk for infection becomes even higher.

It may be due to:

  • Bone marrow deficiency or failure (for example, due to infection, tumor, or abnormal scarring)
  • Cancer treating drugs, or other medicines (see list below)
  • Certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus
  • Disease of the liver or spleen
  • Radiation treatment for cancer
  • Certain viral illnesses, such as Mono
  • Cancers that damage the bone marrow
  • Very severe bacterial infections


  • A high number of WBCs is called leukocytosis. It may be due to:
  • Anemia
  • Certain drugs or medications (see list below
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Infections, most often those caused by bacteria
  • Inflammatory disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis or allergy)
  • Leukemia
  • Severe mental or physical stress
  • Tissue damage (for example, burns)

There may also be other less common reasons for this result. .

Drugs that may lower your WBC count include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Anti thyroid drugs
  • Arsenicals
  • Captopril
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Chlorpromazine
  • Clozapine
  • Diuretics
  • Histamine-2 blockers
  • Sulfonamides
  • Quinidine
  • Terbinafine
  • Ticlopidine

Drugs that may increase WBC counts include:

  • Beta adrenergic agonists (for example albuterol)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Epinephrine
  • Granulocyte colony stimulating factor
  • Heparin
  • Lithium

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Thanks Norman I think that is what we want, I shall check tomorrow. The problem in this case is a doctor looking at the results and saying there is an infection whilst a surgeon looks at the same results and says there isn't. We are just trying to work out which one is correct.
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A high white blood cell count usually suggests that you have an infection somewhere in your body.

The causes of a raised level of different types of white cell are summarised here


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