Vasodilation vs. Vasodilatation

Here’s today’s rant. I’m not a linguist, but the fact that the medical world seems to love the word VASODILATATION is completely out of my head. The root word for VASODILATATION would be DILATATE, but then that word doesn’t exist. There is no DILATATE in the dictionary. The correct term is VASODILATION. The root word is DILATE and it means (generally) to WIDEN. The two words (VASODILATATE and VASODILATE) have the same meaning: the expansion of a vessel. Why can’t the med world make it simpler for regular joes to understand a term? Is it just another reason for the med world to assume superiority over the everyone else? Why can’t everyone just use the word VASODILATION for the love of god(s)?

In an attempt to not go down as a med-student-who-wouldn’t-stop-complaining blog, I have my Clinical Skills Competency today in Basic Life Support. It shouldn’t be too bad, I remember my DRABCD, and I think I am confident enough to perform it. I guess to make it less boring, I’ll just try to make it as comical as possible while maintaining the effeciency of the process. We’ll see how it goes.

For the love of god(s),



14 thoughts on “Vasodilation vs. Vasodilatation

  1. Jo says:


    Funny enough I am a Jo and had to search for the definition of vasodilatation, thinking I must have missed that slide (amongst the 60+) in the lectures. I will stick with vasodilation and the words heat versus calor and redness or erythema versus rubor and oedema or swelling versus tumor. My only understanding surrounding the use of mysterious medical jargon is a) to keep patients in the dark while medical professionals talk in code or b) to pamper ones ego with coded speak … please egos aside … the focus is patient care and a huge part of that is communication! So what gives? We should all be on the same page.

  2. sciencegirrl says:

    thank you. my thoughts exactly!!!

  3. YM says:

    Thank you so much =)

  4. S.W. Atwell says:

    Whoever you are, your attitude is exactly what I want in a physician or health professional colleague. (I am a student nurse). Nicely said.

  5. acennace says:

    Thanks for the comment, everyone. Almost 3 years later and I still stand by what I said. Sadly, the medic’s world will never agree as they often insist on us students to speak the lingo…

  6. ED says:

    Well said!

  7. opeyemi says:

    I had to google vasodilatation to confirm that it is actually a word!!!

  8. Martin Hanson says:

    On another thing, why can’t medical people say ‘breathing’ instead of the (incorrect) ‘respiration’? And ‘swallowing’ instead of ‘deglutition’?
    Of course, we couldn’t have that, could we? The patients might then understand!

  9. J says:

    Brought here by google searching engine searching for … you guessed it, vasodilatation. Good answer bro.

  10. Tim says:

    I agree that simple expression is to be preferred but in this case you do not have etymology on your side.

    ‘Dilate’ is formed from di- (=twice) and -late (from latus = broad, as in latitude), not dil- and
    -ate. Dilatate (= twice broaden) should therefore be the corresponding verb. The fact that it is not is a linguistic accident, and dilatation is still truer to linguistic norms than dilation.

    Of course, if you don’t care for linguistic norms you need’t let this bother you. However, I think that there is more than arrogance in the preference of doctors for ‘dilatation’.

    Clothing is more than a way of staying warm and language is more than a way of transferring information. Some people enjoy using words elegantly.

    • acennace says:

      Hey Tim,
      Thanks for the comment.

      I agree that in this case (after further reading on the etymology of the word) dilatate is the truer (and older) form.

      I wrote this post in the first year as a disgruntled response to doctors/the medical world using the less common words in a lot of circumstances as I found simple expressions to be more useful for patients to understand rather than the complex mumbo-jumbo that doctors often use to talk to the patients.

      I suppose in this case we should start campaigning for the use of dilatate instead of dilate based on the etymology. 😛

  11. Mylene A says:

    My mother tongue is french and we say in it literally “vasodilatation”, same spelling as in english. I could understand how it might have come around to use vasodilation and vasodilatation interchangeably, especially in a bilingual country such as Canada, where medical student do rotations east to west and vice versa. In Montreal and Ottawa, the two languages are used in english hospitals, and french speaking med students and graduated doctors and nurses come to english hospitals… and everyone uses everyone’s version of the to words ! It doesn’t surprise me that it’s confusing as to which one to use.

  12. Big T says:

    Generally speaking, “vasodilation” is used in the U.S. & “vasodilatation” is used in the UK (& elsewhere). I’m a physiology professor & when I submit a research manuscript I need to make sure that word (& others) are spelled appropriately for the given journal. Some clinicians/researchers who were trained in the UK, but practice in the US use vasodilatation & others who hear this use it b/c they think it sounds cool.

  13. Mike S says:

    I’m a cardiovascular ICU nurse in the US. We commonly use drugs classified as vasodilators for their vasodilatation properties 🙂

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