gms | German Medical Science

GMS Journal for Medical Education

Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

ISSN 2366-5017

Annette Kerckhoff: Mikrolatinum for medical jobs

book review medicine

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  • corresponding author Konstanze Vogt - Klinikum Charité der Humbolt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Mikrobiologie und Hygiene, Berlin, Deutschland

GMS Z Med Ausbild 2011;28(1):Doc06

doi: 10.3205/zma000718, urn:nbn:de:0183-zma0007186

This is the English version of the article.
The German version can be found at:

Received: October 15, 2010
Revised: October 27, 2010
Accepted: October 27, 2010
Published: February 4, 2011

© 2011 Vogt.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.

Bibliographical instruction

Anette Kerckhoff

Mikrolatinum für Heilberufe - Ein Einstieg

Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft Stuttgart

Pages: 137, € 12,00

ISBN: 978-3-8047-2677-2, Erscheinungsjahr: 2010


Once upon a time, you had to present the Latinum to study medicine, an official qualification in Latin. One might ask if it is necessary to cite Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum in order to fight for people’s health, with the lancet high up in the air. Today, a course of terminology, resembling a Mini-Latinum, will help everybody to learn humanistic fundaments. However, you cannot understand the fascinating features of ancient languages – their precise correctness, pragmatical shortness and elegant word connections – by simply learning medical idioms. There is an important difference between Abortus imminens and A. incipiens, despite of similar spelling!

Annette Kerckhoff, a medical journalist, presents the “Mikrolatinum for Medical Professions” in order to teach grammar and etymology, adding information about the Latin and Ancient Greek language. Based on lecture notes, she created a booklet apt for your lab coat’s pocket, which has now been edited a third time. It is designed not only for medical students, but also for all medical professionalists who collaborate with physicians, thus reading diagnostic or treatment reports.

Many people think that Latin is a “dead” or “boring” language which is difficult to learn: This is where Annette Kerkhoff offers help. She does not want to teach every grammatical problem or list every idiom in alphabetical order. She just wants to raise enthusiasm for a language which is still necessary.

The first part presents some basic features of grammar, the second part deals with organs and the physiologic apparatus explaining medical words. Introducing a Latin item referring to the modern word, she analyzes how the item has entered our language (e.g. inter= between – intercity, international, interest). Later on, she concentrates on medical items thus helping to understand intercellular space or interdigital mycosis.

Explaining the suffix “-itis”, she presents 25 words dealing with inflammation, and everybody will remember at least one of them. She combines basic knowledge with linguistic features to explain how words are combined or conjugated. Her book is very easy to read. In the end, you can test your knowledge by translating 40 items. The final short course about medical plants and a register make the book perfect for daily use.

Of course, a small book cannot present every aspect of medical language, and the author did not intend to do so. Nevertheless, the selection of 40 important items seems random to me (gastr- is included while hepat – is missing). The next edition should eliminate minor mistakes in spelling (metencephalon) or translation (Repetitio est mater studiorum – this does NOT mean repetition is the mother of students). Sometimes I really missed words which are often used in daily work in order to soothe patients (filiae, moribund, extra muros, ad patres, cave).

All in all, Annette Kerckhoff succeeded in arousing interest. After having read her book, the student will be keen on handling a medical dictionary, knowing that he will understand it. The author eliminates the fear against medical language and clarifies its relevance: Serving as a “lingua Franca”, medical language is international and allows an effective communication in which the reader will soon be able to participate.

Competing interests

The autor declare that she has no competing interests.