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How to look for other unfamiliar pharmaceutical terms
Comments? Questions? Revisions? Mary Chitty
Last revised October 30, 2013


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But lots of terms aren't here yet. (Some never will be.) The following sources are particularly suggested. * Most generally useful for all types of subjects.  I may not list/have the newest editions. 

  • Bains William, Biotechnology A-Z, Oxford University Press, 2003. About 400 entries/ definitions. Particularly good at explaining variant meanings and contexts.  To order:  

  • Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, W. B. Saunders Co., 29th edition, 2000. 121,160 definitions.

  • FAO Glossary of Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture, Food and Agricultural Organization, 2002, 3196 terms  Not just for food or agriculture. 

  • Glick, David M., Glossary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. (3,000+ definitions in 1996 paper edition)

  • * Google definitions Use define: word or phrase you want 

  • * IUPAC Comp International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Compendium of Chemical Terminology: Recommendations, compiled by Alan D. McNaught and Andrew Wilkinson, Blackwell Science, 1997. "Gold Book" See the bibliography for other IUPAC print and web compilations.

  • King, Robert C. and William D. Stansfield, Dictionary of Genetics, Oxford University Press, 1997. About 6600 definitions. 

  • Lackie JM and JAT Dow, Dictionary of Cell & Molecular Biology, Academic Press, 3rd ed., 1999  7,000+ definitions.   

  • MeSH Medical Subject Headings, (PubMed Browser) National Library of Medicine, Revised annually. 250,000 entry terms, 19,000 main headings. You can also look for terms in the titles or text words of PubMed Medline articles[

  • MeSH bibliography Dictionaries, handbooks, textbooks, websites

  • NHGRI (National Human Genome Research Institute), Glossary of Genetic Terms, ongoing revision. 170+ definitions. Includes extended audio definitions.

  • * Onelook Dictionaries, Bob Ware  An index to 700+ online dictionaries.

  • *Oxford Dictionary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oxford University Press, 2000. Over 17,000 main entries. T

  • Science Functional Genomics Resources: Educational resources: A guide to some useful online glossaries  Categories cover genetics and genomics, general biology and molecular biology, post- genomics biotech and bioinformatics, medical genomics and specific organisms. Includes this Genomic glossaries.

  • Wikipedia can be very useful.  I particularly like the disambiguation pages and the category pages. 

* Recommended Search Engines
I use Google (a lot)  more than any other search engines. Google now has a  limited Boolean OR capability (it cannot be combined with an AND) available in Advanced Search  See also  FAQ #2 for examples. Scirus   and Teoma  can also be helpful. 

The Glossary FAQ question #3  has information on using search engines to quantitate variant forms of a word of phrase.

Databases, free and for fee
Electronic databases are great for tracking down current use of terms and tracing how far back theyíve been used. With a very limited budget I use free PubMed  for the most part. But fee based database vendors such as Dialog  or Lexis/Nexis  can be cost effective and quick.

Additional recommendations for background information
 Lewin, Benjamin GENES Online Online (full- text) and updated  

Lodish, Harvey, Molecular Cell Biology 4e, WH Freeman & Co.,1999 and website.

Patient resources links to websites for general patient and disease related information.

This is a work in progress. I find new (at least to me) words and phrases nearly every day. Some would be familiar to a specialist. Others are newly coined. No single source Iíve found is comprehensive in this interdisciplinary area. And the web isnít always the best place to find a clear definition.  I particularly recommend the Oxford Dictionary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, King's Dictionary of Genetics and William Bain's Biotechnology from A to Z, and frequently consult my copies.  (And the Oxford English Dictionary (Second edition and supplements) is a surprisingly fruitful source as well.) A medical dictionary can also be quite helpful.  And is always worth trying.

But there are a number of terms which Iíd be hard-pressed to figure out without the web. Hence the Recommended Search Engines and Databases, free and for fee , as well as the above particularly helpful and extensive resources. 

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