Words we never use

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 10 Sep 2021

There are a number of words we never use at Radiopaedia.org. This may be the result of an international consensus on correct spelling, other times it is a local decision about how we can improve consistency on the site. The term orthography is the formal term for the system of spelling for any language.

This is separate to the differences between British (UK) and American (US) spelling and the site now automatically attempts to show users the correct spelling, based on your browser language setting, unless overridden by your chosen language preference in your user profile settings


NB: 'vs' is short for versus

artifact vs artefact

Artefact is the original British English spelling. Artifact is the American English spelling.

Interestingly, unlike most American spellings, artifact is the accepted form in some British publications. Artifact also has a derivative spelling that is closer to words that are related to it, e.g. artifactual, artificial, etc.

Therefore, some would argue that artifact should be the preferred spelling - it has an American and British following, and a spelling that is closer to related words. Although one may favor either spelling, for these reasons and because we adhere to consistency the sole spelling employed on Radiopaedia.org is "artifact".

echoes vs echos

Both "echoes" and "echos" are correct plural forms of "echo". Although neither of them is specifically linked to UK or US English spelling and both are technically correct, at Radiopaedia.org we aim for uniformity as much as possible.

One can debate which spelling should prevail, but we feel that "echoes" leaves less room for mispronunciation of the long O sound and therefore prefer the plural form "echoes" to be used (by extension haloes, the plural of halo, is preferred to halos).

fetus vs foetus

In both British and American English 'fetus' is the preferred term (and etymologically the correct one) and foetus will only now be seen in the historical literature and out-of-date textbooks. Therefore in line with modern usage, we use 'fetus', and by extension derived terms are also consistent with this, e.g. fetal, fetoprotein, etc. 3. By the same token, fetor (rather than foetor) is our term of choice (e.g. fetor oris). 

grey vs gray

Outside the US, 'grey' is the preferred spelling and gray is rarely seen, whereas the situation in the US is the exact converse. Thus on Radiopaedia we prefer the spelling to be grey. However because the spelling of the SI unit of absorbed dose is gray (named after the British physicist Louis Gray) we have chosen to use the spelling 'grey' across the site and not vary it with user preference.

sulfur vs sulphur

Many people in the UK continue to spell element number 16 with 'ph'. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the official body with responsibility for the naming of the chemical elements, changed the name to 'sulfur' in 1990. Etymologically, spelling with an 'f' is also more logical 1. At Radiopaedia we have decided to follow the official line and sulfur, and its chemical derivatives, e.g. sulfide, will be used in all contexts.

testis vs testicle

It is common for lay people to use testicle as a synonym for testis (plural testes). However it is much more common for doctors to use the term testis, and we have decided that this is the preferred term on Radiopaedia. This is in line with the Terminologia Anatomica, which is the global standard for correct gross anatomical nomenclature in humans 5. Expert society guidelines for the investigation of testicular pathology use testis/testes almost exclusively 6,7. Nevertheless, the adjectival form remains testicular.

thoracic spine vs dorsal spine

In medical English, some doctors and texts refer to the dorsal spine, D-spine and D1-D12, however, on Radiopaedia the use of the thoracic spine, T-spine and T1-T12 are preferred 4. This is consistent with Terminologia Anatomica, which solely employs the thoracic designator to refer to this part of the spine. In addition the four parts of the duodenum are conventionally abbreviated to D1 to D4, which could be a further source of confusion.

-cele vs -coele

Several medical terms end with the root "-cele", although in some texts the suffix "-coele", seems to be preferred. As the origin is from the Greek kēlē meaning "tumor" or "hernia", we favor the contemporary orthographic convention which is to use "-cele", therefore: hydrocelecystocelehematocele, etc.

Rare exceptions

The main exception to the above is that we will allow the 'incorrect' spelling when it is within directly quoted text or within citations of references. However, as discussed in our article on plagiarism copying chunks of text is usually completely unacceptable.

The only other circumstance when an incorrect spelling will be purposely used and allowed on Radiopaedia.org is in article title synonyms when it is felt that there is a chance that users entering the 'incorrect' spelling (which is often accidental) into the search box may inadvertently struggle to find the relevant article.

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