What Is The Medical Term For Bruise?

bruise on knee; green filter

While we try to be careful, many of us have suffered a bruise every now and again. Bruises can result from many sources, such as accidental contact with table legs or awkward meetings of thumbs and hammers. But, medically speaking, what exactly is a bruise, and what medical terms do the professionals use to talk about bruises?  

What is the medical term for bruise

A bruise is a discoloration that results from bleeding without breaking the skin. Most often, bruises are caused by trauma or injuries that damage capillaries under the skin without rupturing the skin itself. As a result, the blood pools underneath the surface of the skin, which causes a visible change in color.

In medicine, the word contusion is most often used as the technical term for a bruise. Specifically, contusion is used to refer to bruising caused by physical injuries or physical trauma to the body. The noun contusion comes from the verb contuse, which comes from the Latin verb contundere meaning “to bruise” or “to crush.”    

The word ecchymosis is also used as a technical term for bruising. This term is often used to refer to bruising that is caused by medical conditions or illnesses rather than physical injuries. For example, discoloration caused by cancer or blood clots may be referred to as ecchymosis. Ecchymosis comes from the Greek ekchýmōsis, which means extravasation

Bruises often result from physical injuries, such as being hit or accidentally bumping a body part, and they typically heal by themselves over time. Bruising that isn’t caused by physical trauma, most often called ecchymosis, may be a sign of a medical disorder.   

Healthcare professionals use medical terms—such as contusion and ecchymosis—to provide universal medical care and standardize communication within the medical field.

When you visit a doctor for an injury or illness, do you get a prognosis or a diagnosis? We break down the differences.

Examples of medical terms that use contusion and ecchymosis

Of the two technical terms for bruises, contusion is more common. It is often used to refer to physical injuries. Typically, contusion is used together with other words that describe the specific organ or part of the body that has been bruised. Some examples of trauma that could be described using contusion include:

  • muscle contusion
  • spinal contusion
  • brain contusion
  • pulmonary contusion
  • cardiac contusion

The word ecchymosis is typically used by itself to describe a symptom of a more serious medical condition. One example of a medical term that uses ecchymosis is periorbital ecchymosis, commonly known as “raccoon eyes,” a medical condition where dark circles form under the eyes as a result of internal bleeding in the head and face. 

Examples of non-medical synonyms for bruise

There may come a time when you want to colorfully describe what happened to your elbow when you banged it on the desk. For the noun form of bruise, the only exact synonym you’ll find is contusion. However, there are a few other nouns that refer to painful spots on the skin. These include:

As a verb, the word bruise typically means “to injure by striking or pressing.” In this sense, some synonyms of bruise include:

It shouldn’t bruise your ego to admit you want to expand your vocabulary. If you want to practice these words and their definitions, check out our bruising terms word list!

Scratch your itch for more anatomical words by learning the medical terms for itching.

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