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Sexual Health Glossary

Terms used to explain Sexual Health can sometimes be confusing. To help you fully understand the articles and features related to this very important health topic, we have compiled a glossary of terms that can help.


Pronunciation: \ˈab-stə-nən(t)s\

Function: noun

1: voluntary forbearance esp. from sexual intercourse or from eating some foods
2: habitual abstaining from intoxicating beverages

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
Function: noun
: see: aids


Pronunciation: \-ˌkärs-ən-ˈō-mə\

Function: noun
pl -mas
also -ma*ta
Pronunciation: \-mət-ə\
: a malignant tumor originating in glandular epithelium


Function: noun
: abnormal absence or suppression of menstruation see primary amenorrhea secondary amenorrhea


Pronunciation: \ˈan-drə-jən\

Function: noun
: a male sex hormone (as testosterone)


Pronunciation: \-ˈvi-rəl\

Function: adjective
: acting, effective, or directed against viruses <antiviral[1] drugs>

Artificial Insemination

artificial insemination
Function: noun
: introduction of semen into part of the female reproductive tract (as the cervical opening, uterus, or fallopian tube) by other than natural means


Pronunciation: \ˌā-ˌsim(p)-tə-ˈmat-ik\

Function: adjective
: presenting no symptoms of disease <asymptomatic amebiasis>



Pronunciation: \ˌath-ə-rō-sklə-ˈrō-səs\

Function: noun

pl -ro*ses

1: an arteriosclerosis characterized by atheromatous deposits in and fibrosis of the inner layer of the arteries


Function: abbreviation
benign prostatic hyperplasia; benign prostatic hypertrophy

Bacterial Vaginosis

bacterial vag*i*no*sis
Pronunciation: \-ˌvaj-ə-ˈnō-səs\

Function: noun
: vaginitis that is marked by a grayish vaginal discharge usu. of foul odor and that is associated with the presence of a bacterium esp. of the genus Gardnerella (G. vaginalis syn. Haemophilus vaginalis) abbr. BV—called also nonspecific vaginitis


Pronunciation: \ˈbī-ˌäp-sē\

Function: noun
pl -sies
: the removal and examination of tissue, cells, or fluids from the living body

Birth Control

birth control
Function: noun

1: control of the number of children born esp. by preventing or lessening the frequency of conception : see: contraception
2: contraceptive devices or preparations


Pronunciation: \ˈblas-tə-ˌsist\

Function: noun
: the modified blastula of a placental mammal


Pronunciation: \ˈbrest-ˌfēd\

Function: transitive verb
: to feed (a baby) from a mother's breast rather than from a bottle


Pronunciation: \ˈkan(t)-sər\

Function: noun

1: a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis
2: an abnormal state marked by a cancer

Cold Sore

cold sore
Function: noun
: a vesicular lesion that typically occurs in or around the mouth, that initially causes pain, burning, or itching before bursting and crusting over, and that is caused by a herpes simplex virus which remains dormant in the body and may be reactivated by a variety of factors (as stress, fever, or sunburn) —called also fever blister, compare canker sore


Pronunciation: \ˈkän-dəm also ˈkən-\

Function: noun

1: a sheath commonly of rubber worn over the penis (as to prevent conception or venereal infection during coitus) —called also sheath
2: a device that is designed to be inserted into the vagina before coitus and that resembles in form and function the condom used by males


Pronunciation: \ˌkän-trə-ˈsep-shən\

Function: noun
: deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation


Pronunciation: \ˌkrī-ō-ˈsərj-(ə-)rē\

Function: noun
pl -ger*ies
: surgery in which diseased or abnormal tissue (as a tumor or wart) is destroyed or removed by freezing (as by the use of liquid nitrogen)

Cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate

cyclic guanosine monophosphate
Function: noun
: see: cyclic gmp

Dental Dam

dental dam
Function: noun
: a rubber dam used in dentistry

Dilation And Curettage

dilation and curettage
Function: noun
: a medical procedure in which the uterine cervix is dilated and a curette is inserted into the uterus to scrape away the endometrium (as for the diagnosis or treatment of abnormal bleeding or for surgical abortion during the early part of the second trimester of pregnancy) —called also D&C

Doppler Echocardiography

Doppler echocardiography
Function: noun
: Doppler ultrasound used to measure cardiovascular blood flow velocity for diagnostic purposes (as for evaluating valve function)


Function: noun
: painful menstruation see spasmodic dysmenorrhea

Ectopic Pregnancy

ectopic pregnancy
Function: noun

: gestation elsewhere than in the uterus (as in a fallopian tube or in the peritoneal cavity) —called also ectopic gestation, extrauterine gestation, extrauterine pregnancy


Pronunciation: \-lət\

Function: noun
: the semen released by one ejaculation


Pronunciation: \-ˈmē-trē-əm\

Function: noun
pl -tria
Pronunciation: \-trē-ə\
: the mucous membrane lining the uterus that is composed of three layers see stratum basale stratum compactum stratum spongiosum


Pronunciation: \ˈep-ə-ˌsōd also -ˌzōd\

Function: noun
: an event that is distinctive and separate although part of a larger series; esp: an occurrence of a usu. recurrent pathological abnormal condition <a manic episode> <hypoglycemic episodes>


Pronunciation: \ˈes-trə-jən\

Function: noun
: any of various natural steroids (as estradiol) that are formed from androgen precursors, that are secreted chiefly by the ovaries, placenta, adipose tissue, and testes, and that stimulate the development of female secondary sex characteristics and promote the growth and maintenance of the female reproductive system; also: any of various synthetic or semisynthetic steroids (as ethinyl estradiol) that mimic the physiological effect of natural estrogens

Fallopian Tube

fallopian tube
Function: noun
often cap F: either of the pair of tubes that carry the eggs from the ovary to the uterus —called also uterine tube

Fever Blister

fever blister
Function: noun
: see: cold sore


Pronunciation: \ˈjen-ə-təl\

Function: adjective

1: see: generative
2: of, relating to, or being a sexual organ
3 a: of, relating to, or characterized by the stage of psychosexual development in psychoanalytic theory following the latency period and during which oral and anal impulses are subordinated to adaptive interpersonal mechanisms
b: of, relating to, or characterized by a personality in the genital stage of psychosexual development esp. as typified by normal sexual desires and by concern for the happiness and pleasures of others compare anal 2 oral 3

Genital Herpes

genital herpes
Function: noun
: herpes simplex of the type affecting the genitals —called also herpes genitalis

Genital Wart

genital wart
Function: noun
: a wart on the skin or adjoining mucous membrane usu. near the anus and genital organs —called also condyloma, condyloma acuminatum, venereal wart


Pronunciation: \ˌā-ˌchī-ˈvē\

Function: noun
: any of several retroviruses and esp. HIV-1 that infect and destroy helper T cells of the immune system causing the marked reduction in their numbers that is diagnostic of AIDS —called also AIDS virus, human immunodeficiency virus


Pronunciation: \ˌāch-(ˌ)pē-ˈvē\

Function: noun
: see: human papillomavirus

Hepatitis B

hepatitis B
Pronunciation: \-ˈbē\

Function: noun
: a sometimes fatal hepatitis caused by a double-stranded DNA virus (species Hepatitis B virus of the genus Orthohepadnavirus, family Hepadnaviridae) that tends to persist in the blood serum and is transmitted esp. by contact with infected blood (as by transfusion or by sharing contaminated needles in illicit intravenous drug use) or by contact with other infected bodily fluids (as semen) —called also serum hepatitis


Pronunciation: \ˈhər-(ˌ)pēz\

Function: noun
: any of several inflammatory diseases of the skin caused by herpesviruses and characterized by clusters of vesicles; esp: see: herpes simplex

Herpes Simplex

herpes sim*plex
Pronunciation: \-ˈsim-ˌpleks\

Function: noun
: either of two viral diseases caused by herpesviruses of the genus Simplexvirus that are marked esp. by watery blisters on the skin or mucous membranes of the lips, mouth, face, or genital region see hsv-1 hsv-2

Human Immunodeficiency Virus

human immunodeficiency virus
Function: noun
: see: hiv


Pronunciation: \ˌhis-tə-ˈrek-tə-mē\

Function: noun
pl -mies
: surgical removal of the uterus see ovariohysterectomy panhysterectomy radical hysterectomy supracervical hysterectomy

Immune System

immune system
Function: noun
: the bodily system that protects the body from foreign substances, cells, and tissues by producing the immune response and that includes esp. the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, special deposits of lymphoid tissue (as in the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow), lymphocytes including the B cells and T cells, and antibodies


Pronunciation: \im-ˈyü-nət-ē\

Function: noun
pl -ties
: the quality or state of being immune; esp: a condition of being able to resist a particular disease esp. through preventing development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products see acquired immunity active immunity natural immunity passive immunity


Pronunciation: \lə-ˈbēd-(ˌ)ō also ˈlib-ə-ˌdō or lə-ˈbī-(ˌ)dō\

Function: noun
pl -dos

1: instinctual psychic energy that in psychoanalytic theory is derived from primitive biological urges (as for sexual pleasure or self-preservation) and that is expressed in conscious activity
2: sexual drive

Lymph Nodule

lymph nodule
Function: noun
: a small simple lymph node


Pronunciation: \mis-ˈkar-ij\

Function: noun
: spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable and esp. between the 12th and 28th weeks of gestation compare abortion 1a


Pronunciation: \ˈaut-ˌbrāk\

Function: noun

1: a sudden rise in the incidence of a disease <an outbreak of measles>
2: a sudden increase in numbers of a harmful organism and esp. an insect within a particular area <an outbreak of locusts>

Pap Smear

Pap smear
Pronunciation: \ˈpap-\

Function: noun
: a method or a test based on it for the early detection of cancer esp. of the uterine cervix that involves staining exfoliated cells by a special technique which differentiates diseased tissue —called also Papanicolaou smear, Papanicolaou test, Pap test

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

pelvic inflammatory disease
Function: noun
: infection of the female reproductive tract (as the fallopian tubes and ovaries) that results from microorganisms (as Neisseria gonorrhea or Chlamydia trachomatis) transmitted esp. during sexual intercourse but also by other means (as during surgery, abortion, or parturition), is marked esp. by lower abdominal pain, an abnormal vaginal discharge, and fever, and is a leading cause of infertility in women abbr. PID

Peyronie's Disease

Pey*ro*nie's disease
Pronunciation: \ˌpā-rə-ˈnēz-, pā-ˈrō-(ˌ)nēz-\

Function: noun
: the formation of fibrous plaques in one or both corpora cavernosa of the penis resulting in distortion or deflection of the erect organ


Pronunciation: \n(y)u-ˈmō-nyə\
Function: noun
1: a disease of the lungs that is characterized esp. by inflammation and consolidation of lung tissue followed by resolution, is accompanied by fever, chills, cough, and difficulty in breathing, and is caused chiefly by infection see bronchopneumonia lobar pneumonia primary atypical pneumonia


Pronunciation: \ˈprī-ə-ˌpiz-əm\

Function: noun
: an abnormal, more or less persistent, and often painful erection of the penis; esp: one caused by disease rather than sexual desire


Pronunciation: \ˈpräs-ˌtāt\

Function: noun
: see: prostate gland

Pudendal Nerve

pudendal nerve
Function: noun
: a nerve that arises from the second, third, and fourth sacral nerves and that supplies the external genitalia, the skin of the perineum, and the anal sphincters


Pronunciation: \ri-ˈkər-ən(t)s, -ˈkə-rən(t)s\

Function: noun

1: return of symptoms of a disease after a remission
2: reappearance of a tumor after previous removal


Pronunciation: \ˈskrōt-əm\

Function: noun
pl scro*ta
Pronunciation: \-ə\>
or scrotums
: the external sac that in most mammals contains the testes


Pronunciation: \ˈsē-mən\

Function: noun
: a viscid whitish fluid of the male reproductive tract consisting of spermatozoa suspended in secretions of accessory glands (as of the prostate and Cowper's glands)

Seminal Vesicle

seminal vesicle
Function: noun
: either of a pair of glandular pouches that lie one on either side of the male reproductive tract and that in human males secrete a sugar- and protein-containing fluid into the ejaculatory duct

Sexually Transmitted Disease

sexually transmitted disease
Function: noun
: any of various diseases or infections that can be transmitted by direct sexual contact including some (as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital herpes) chiefly spread by sexual means and others (as hepatitis B and AIDS) often contracted by nonsexual means —called also STD


Pronunciation: \ˈspərm\

Function: noun
pl sperm
or sperms

1: the male impregnating fluid : see: semen
2: a male gamete; esp: see: spermatozoon


Pronunciation: \ˈspər-mə-ˌsīd\

Function: noun
: a preparation or substance (as nonoxynol-9) used to kill sperm —called also spermatocide


Pronunciation: \ˈsif-(ə-)ləs\

Function: noun
: a chronic contagious usu. venereal and often congenital disease that is caused by a spirochete of the genus Treponema (T. pallidum) and if left untreated produces chancres, rashes, and systemic lesions in a clinical course with three stages continued over many years —called also lues, see primary syphilis secondary syphilis tertiary syphilis


Function: verb
Pronunciation: \ˈəls-(ə-)riŋ\

: see: ulcerate


Pronunciation: \ˌvā-zō-ˈdī-ˌlāt-ər\

Function: noun
: an agent (as a parasympathetic nerve fiber or a drug) that induces or initiates vasodilation


Pronunciation: \ˈvī-rəl\

Function: adjective
: of, relating to, or caused by a virus <viral infections>


Pronunciation: \ˈvəl-və\

Function: noun
pl vul*vae
Pronunciation: \-ˌvē, -ˌvī\
: the external parts of the female genital organs comprising the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vestibule of the vagina, bulb of the vestibule, and Bartholin's glands

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© 2011 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Inc.

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