The inclusion of medical terms in early English–Chinese dictionaries


  • Yongwei Gao Fudan University



Medical terms, English–Chinese dictionaries, Missionaries, Standardization


Robert Morrison’s pioneering A Dictionary of the Chinese Language comprises three parts, the last of which is in essence an English–Chinese dictionary. This part included dozens of medical terms besides its coverage of common English words. Later English–Chinese dictionaries such as Samuel Wells Williams’ An English and Chinese Vocabulary in the Court Dialect and Walter Henry Medhurst’s English and Chinese Dictionary continued to record the use of medical terms, and the number of such terms gradually increased. They were followed by Benjamin Hobsons’ A Medical Vocabulary in English and Chinese whose coverage of medical terms far exceeded those of previous dictionaries. In two later dictionaries that were compiled by Justus Doolittle and Wilhelm Lobscheid, respectively, the number of medical terms increased considerably. At the end of the 19th century, with the formation of a terminology committee, the importance of medical terminology and standard medical nomenclature was recognized, and later a series of medical textbooks and several medical dictionaries were published. This paper attempts to research into the inclusion of medical terms in English–Chinese dictionaries published from 1822 to 1908, and the problems found therein will be discussed in detail.


Cousland, Philip B. 1908. An English-Chinese Lexicon of Medical Terms. Shanghai: Printed at the American Presbyterian Mission Press.

Doolittle, Justus. 1872. Vocabulary and Hand-book of the Chinese Language, Romanized in the Mandarin Dialect. Foochow, China: Rozario, Marcal and Company.

Dudgeon, John. 1882. Review of A New Medical Vocabulary. Chinese Recorder: 259–265.

Hobson, Benjamin. 1858. A Medical Vocabulary in English and Chinese. , 1–74. Shanghae Mission Press.

Li, Chuanbin. 2005. Medical Missionaries and the Establishment of Western Medical Terms in the Chinese Language. Chinese Cultural Studies Winter: 50–55.

Lobscheid, Wilhelm. 1866–1869. English and Chinese Dictionary, with the Punti and Mandarin Pronunciation. Hong Kong: Printed and Published at the “Daily Press” Office.

Lobscheid, W., and Tetsujiro Inouye. 1883. An English and Chinese Dictionary. Tokio: Published by J. Fujimoto.

Medhurst, Walter Henry. 1847–1848. English and Chinese Dictionary, in Two Volumes. Shanghae: Printed at the Mission Press.

Shen, Guowei. 2010. Research on the Lexical Exchange between Chinese and Japanese since Late Qing Dynasty. Beijing: Zhong Hua Press.

Sun, Zhuo. 2010. The Creation of Modern Medical Terms–A Case Study of Benjamin Hobson and His A Medical Vocabulary in English and Chinese. Studies in the History of Natural Sciences 4: 456–474.

Williams, Samuel Wells. 1844. An English and Chinese Vocabulary in the Court Dialect. Macao: Printed at the Office of The Chinese Repository.

Yen, W.W. 1908. An English and Chinese Standard Dictionary. Shanghai: The Commercial Press.

Zhang, Daqing. 1994. The Uniformity of Medical Terms in Early Period: A Review on the Work of China Medical Missionary Association. Chinese Journal of Medical History 1: 15–20.



How to Cite

Gao, Y. (2018). The inclusion of medical terms in early English–Chinese dictionaries. Lexicography, 3(2), 85-97.