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1. any objective evidence of disease or dysfunction.
2. an observable physical phenomenon so frequently associated with a given condition as to be considered indicative of its presence. See also names of specific signs such as tinel's sign.
sign/symptom a term used in the omaha system, defined as both objective and subjective evidence of a health problem. See also sign and symptom.
sign/symptom, mental/emotional in the omaha system, objective or subjective evidence of a mental or emotional health problem; it may include conditions such as depressed feelings, confusion, agitation, or suicidal threats.
sign/symptom, physical in the omaha system, objective or subjective evidence of a physical health problem; it may include conditions such as elevated temperature, failure to thrive, a statement of pain, or others.
vital s's the signs of life, namely pulse, respiration, and temperature.
sign (omaha) in the omaha system, on the fourth level of the problem classification scheme, the objective evidence of a client problem as observed by a community health nurse or other health care provider; this is closely related to the problem modifier actual. See also sign/symptom.


1. Any abnormality indicative of disease, discoverable on examination of the patient; an objective indication of disease, in contrast to a symptom, which is a subjective indication of disease.
2. An abbreviation or symbol.
3. psychology any object or artifact (stimulus) that represents a specific thing or conveys a specific idea to the person who perceives it.
[L. signum, mark]


(sīn) an indication of the existence of something; any objective evidence of a disease, i.e., such evidence as is perceptible to the examining physician, as opposed to the subjective sensations (symptoms) of the patient.
Abadie's sign  insensibility of the Achilles tendon to pressure in tabes dorsalis.
Babinski sign 
1. loss or lessening of the triceps surae reflex in organic sciatica.
2. see under reflex.
3. in organic hemiplegia, failure of the platysma muscle to contract on the affected side in opening the mouth, whistling, etc.
4. in organic hemiplegia, flexion of the thigh and lifting of the heel from the ground when the patient tries to sit up from a supine position with arms crossed upon chest.
5. in organic paralysis, when the affected forearm is placed in supination, it turns over to pronation.
Beevor's sign 
1. in functional paralysis, inability to inhibit the antagonistic muscles.
2. in paralysis of the lower abdominal muscles due to a spinal cord lesion in the region of the lower thoracic vertebrae, there is upward excursion of the umbilicus on attempting to lift the head.
Bergman's sign  in urologic radiography, (a) the ureter is dilated immediately below a neoplasm, rather than collapsed as below an obstructing stone, and (b) the ureteral catheter tends to coil in this dilated portion of the ureter.
Biernacki's sign  analgesia of the ulnar nerve in general paresis and tabes dorsalis.
Blumberg's sign  pain on abrupt release of steady pressure (rebound tenderness) over the site of a suspected abdominal lesion, indicative of peritonitis.
Branham's sign  bradycardia produced by digital closure of an artery proximal to an arteriovenous fistula.
Braxton Hicks' sign  see under contraction.
Broadbent's sign  retraction on the left side of the back, near the eleventh and twelfth ribs, related to pericardial adhesion.
Brudzinski sign 
1. in meningitis, flexion of the neck usually causes flexion of the hip and knee.
2. in meningitis, on passive flexion of one lower limb, the contralateral limb shows a similar movement.
Chaddock's sign  see under reflex.
Chadwick sign  a dark blue to purplish-red congested appearance of the vaginal mucosa, an indication of pregnancy.
Chvostek sign , Chvostek-Weiss sign spasm of the facial muscles elicited by tapping the facial nerve in the region of the parotid gland; seen in tetany.
Cullen sign  bluish discoloration around the umbilicus sometimes associated with intraperitoneal hemorrhage, especially after rupture of the uterine tube in ectopic pregnancy; similar discoloration occurs in acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis.
Dalrymple sign  abnormal wideness of the palpebral opening in Graves' disease.
Delbet's sign  in aneurysm of a limb's main artery, if nutrition of the part distal to the aneurysm is maintained despite absence of the pulse, collateral circulation is sufficient.
de Musset's sign  Musset's s.
Ewart's sign  bronchial breathing and dullness on percussion at the lower angle of the left scapula in pericardial effusion.
fabere sign  see Patrick's test.
Friedreich's sign  diastolic collapse of the cervical veins due to adhesion of the pericardium.
Goodell's sign  softening of the cervix; a sign of pregnancy.
Gorlin's sign  the ability to touch the tip of the nose with the tongue, often a sign of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Graefe's sign  tardy or jerky downward movement of the upper eyelids when the gaze is directed downward; noted in thyrotoxicosis.
halo sign  a halo effect produced in the radiograph of the fetal head between the subcutaneous fat and the cranium; said to be indicative of intrauterine death of the fetus.
harlequin sign  reddening of the lower half of the laterally recumbent body and blanching of the upper half, due to temporary vasomotor disturbance in newborn infants.
Hegar's sign  softening of the lower uterine segment; indicative of pregnancy.
Hoffmann's sign 
1. increased mechanical irritability of the sensory nerves in tetany; the ulnar nerve is usually tested.
2. a sudden nipping of the nail of the index, middle, or ring finger produces flexion of the terminal phalanx of the thumb and of the second and third phalanges of some other finger.
Homans' sign  discomfort behind the knee on forced dorsiflexion of the foot, due to thrombosis in the calf veins.
Hoover's sign 
1. in the normal state or in true paralysis, when the supine patient presses the leg against the surface on which he is lying, the other leg will lift.
2. movement of the costal margins toward the midline in inhalation, bilaterally in pulmonary emphysema and unilaterally in conditions causing flattening of the diaphragm.
Joffroy's sign  in Graves' disease, absence of forehead wrinkling when the gaze is suddenly directed upward.
Kernig's sign  in meningitis, inability to completely extend the leg when sitting or lying with the thigh flexed upon the abdomen; when in dorsal decubitus position, the leg can be easily and completely extended.
Klippel-Weil sign  in pyramidal tract disease, flexion and adduction of the thumb when the flexed fingers are quickly extended by the examiner.
Lasègue's sign  in sciatica, flexion of the hip is painful when the knee is extended, but painless when the knee is flexed.
Léri's sign  absence of normal flexion of the elbow on passive flexion of the hand at the wrist of the affected side in hemiplegia.
Lhermitte's sign  electric-like shocks spreading down the body on flexing the head forward; seen mainly in multiple sclerosis but also in compression and other cervical cord disorders.
Macewen's sign  a more than normal resonant note on percussion of the skull behind the junction of the frontal, temporal, and parietal bones in internal hydrocephalus and cerebral abscess.
McMurray sign  occurrence of a cartilage click on manipulation of the knee; indicative of meniscal injury.
Möbius' sign  in Graves' disease, inability to keep the eyes converged due to insufficiency of the internal rectus muscles.
Musset's sign  rhythmical jerking of the head in aortic aneurysm and aortic insufficiency.
Nikolsky's sign  in pemphigus vulgaris and some other bullous diseases, the outer epidermis separates easily from the basal layer on exertion of firm sliding manual pressure.
Oliver sign  tracheal tugging; see tugging.
Oppenheim sign  see under reflex.
Queckenstedt's sign  when the veins in the neck are compressed on one or both sides in healthy persons, there is a rapid rise in the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid, which then returns quickly to normal when compression ceases. In obstruction of the vertebral canal, the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid is little or not at all affected.
Romberg's sign  swaying of the body or falling when the eyes are closed while standing with the feet close together; observed in tabes dorsalis.
Rossolimo's sign  see under reflex.
setting-sun sign  downward deviation of the eyes so that each iris appears to “set” beneath the lower lid, with white sclera exposed between it and the upper lid; indicative of increased intracranial pressure or irritation of the brain stem.
Stellwag's sign  infrequent or incomplete blinking, a sign of Graves' disease.
string of beads sign  a series of rounded shapes resembling a string of beads on a radiograph of the small intestine, indicating bubbles of trapped gas within the fluid of an obstructed and distended bowel.
Tinel's sign  a tingling sensation in the distal end of a limb when percussion is made over the site of a divided nerve. It indicates a partial lesion or the beginning regeneration of the nerve.
Trousseau's sign  tache cérébrale.
vital signs  the pulse, respiration, and temperature.


Medicine An objective finding, usually detected on physical examination, from a laboratory test, or on an x-ray, that indicates the presence of abnormality or disease.
v. signed, signing, signs

sign′er n.


Etymology: L, signum, mark
an objective finding as perceived by an examiner, such as a fever, a rash, the whisper heard over the chest in pleural effusion, or the light band of hair seen in children after recovery from kwashiorkor. Many signs accompany symptoms. For example, erythema and a maculopapular rash are often seen with pruritus. Compare symptom.


An objective clinical defect or change that is associated with a particular disorder.


Sottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. An organisation established in 1993 by the Academy of Royal Colleges and their Faculties in Scotland, and approved by NHS Evidence, to develop evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for NHS-Scotland, and protocols for treating certain diseases and conditions—e.g., diabetes and back pain.


Medtalk A defect or abnormality which is associated with a particular disorder. Related terms are Accordion sign, Air meniscus sign, Amputation sign, Angel wing sign, Aortic nipple sign, Apical cap sign, Applesauce sign, Arrowhead sign, Asterisk sign, Bald sac sign, Banana sign, Battle sign, Beak sign, Bird's sign, Bird beak sign, Blade of grass sign, Blue tongue sign, Bowler hat sign, Bozzolo sign, Branham sign, Broken ring sign, Broken straw sign, Brudzinski sign, Candy cane sign, Carman's meniscus sign, Cat's paw sign, Celery stick sign, Chaddock sign, Chadwick sign, 'Chandelier sign,' Chinese lantern sign, Chvostek sign, Clenched fist sign, Cluster of grapes sign, Cobrahead sign, Collar sign, Colon cut-off sign, Comet tail sign, Cracked-pot sign, Cracker sign, Curbstone sign, Cullen sign, Cut-off sign, Dagger sign, Deciduous tree in winter sign, Delta sign, DeMusset sign, Dimple sign, Doll's eye sign, Donohue-Fauver sign, Double bubble sign, Double condom sign, Double duct sign, Double wall sign, Dough sign, Doughnut sign, Drawer sign, Drooping lily sign, E sign, Einstein sign, Ellipse sign, Ewart sign, Eyelash sign, FBI sign, Fifth vital sign, Figure 3 sign, Fishhook sign, Flag sign, Flat waist sign, Football sign, Friend sign, Frog sign, Grey Turner sign, Groove sign, H bomb sign, Half moon sign, Hampton sign, Head drop sign, Heel pad sign, Hegar sign, Hill sign, Hilum overlay sign, Hoffman sign, Homan sign, Hot air balloon sign, Hump sign, Hump & dip sign, Iceberg sign, Inverted comma sign, Inverted mushroom & stem sign, Inverted 3 sign, Inverted U sign, Inverted umbrella sign, Jail bars sign, Jello sign, Jet sign, Joffrey sign, Kussmaul sign, Kehr sign, Kernig sign, Kestenbaum sign, Key sign, Keyhole sign, Lachman sign, Lasègue sign, Lemon sign, Lhermitte sign, Lipstick sign, Luftsichel sign, Marcus Gunn sign, McMurray sign, Meningeal sign, Meniscus sign, Mickey Mouse sign, Milk rejection sign, Möbius sign, Mogul sign, Monocle sign, Moro sign, Moviegoer sign, Mulder sign, Musset sign, Napoleon's hat sign, Nikolsky's sign, Notch sign, Nuchal translucency sign, Numb chin sign, Number 3 sign, Ober sign, Obturator sign, Okra sign, Omega sign, One bone-two bone sign, One sign, two sign, three sign, Overhanging ledge sign, Osler sign, Padlock sign, Pencil-in-cup sign, Peninsula sign, Phalen sign, Playboy Bunny sign, Plump hilus sign, Psoas sign, Puddle sign, Pyloric string sign, Pyriform sign, Quarter moon sign, Reverse 5 sign, Reverse 3 sign, Rigid loop sign, Rim sign, Ring sign, Romberg sign, Rope sign, Rovsing sign, Sagging rope sign, Sail sign, Sanctuary sign, Scarf sign, Scotty dog sign, Setting sun sign, Shaggy heart sign, Shelf sign, Signet ring sign, Snowman sign, Snow white sign, Square root sign, Step-off sign, String sign, String of beads sign, Sulcus sign, Terry Thomas sign, Thorn sign, Thumb & little finger sign, Thumb sign, Thymic wave sign, Tinnel sign, Tinted spectacles sign, Tit sign, Tooth sign, Toothpaste sign, Track sign, Trident sign, Twinkling star sign, Vacuum sign, Vital sign, 'Waiter accepting a tip' sign, Wall sign, Water lily sign, Westermark sign, Westphal sign, Whalebone in a corset sign, White line sign, Winterbottom sign, Wrist sign


1. Any abnormality indicative of disease, discoverable on examination of a patient; an objective symptom of disease, in contrast to a symptom, which is a subjective sign of disease.
2. An abbreviation or symbol.
3. psychology Any object or artifact (stimulus) that represents a specific thing or conveys a specific idea to the person who perceives it.


An objective indication of disease, perceptible by an external observer. Compare SYMPTOM.


objective features of disease, and noted by examining clinician (contrast with symptoms); note: eponymous signs are denoted as ‘positive’ when their characteristics are present
  • Babinski's sign characteristics of an upper motor neurone lesion (UMNL; e.g. cerebrovascular accident; cerebral palsy), i.e. hip, knee, elbow and wrist flexion, ankle plantar flexions, forearm pronation, and an extensor plantar response on contralateral side to UMNL (see response, extensor plantar)

  • Chaddock's sign stimulation of lateral malleolar skin causes hallux extension at first metatarsophalangeal joint; diagnostic of corticospinal (motor tract) reflex path pathology

  • Chvostek's sign hemifacial tic, induced by tapping the facial nerve just below cheek bone; indicative of hypercalcaemia

  • clenched-fist sign pressing the clenched fist against anterior central chest wall; characteristic of angina pectoris

  • daylight sign see sign, Sullivan's

  • Erb–Westphal sign loss of knee jerk reflex; characteristic of spinal cord motor tract pathology

  • Gower's sign attaining upright posture from sitting by pushing with the hands against anterior thighs (‘climbing up the legs’); characteristic of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

  • Homan's sign calf pain on ankle dorsiflexion; characteristic of calf deep-vein thrombosis

  • Hutchinson's sign pigment ‘overspill’/ ‘washout’ into surrounding tissues from a melanoma; denotes local spread of lesion

  • Leser–Trelat sign rapid development of multiple seborrhoeic keratotic skin lesions; associated with underlying malignancy

  • Lhermitte's sign sudden ‘electrical’ pains that extend down the spine when head is flexed on neck; characteristic of multiple sclerosis and cervical cord compression

  • oil drop sign small area of yellowish onycholysis, caused by elevation of nail plate from bed; characteristic of psoriasis

  • Remak's sign pain in response to innocuous stimuli; characteristic of polyneuritis and painful neuropathies, e.g. diabetic neuropathy and complex regional pain syndromes

  • Romberg's sign loss of/poor balance when standing with eyes closed; characteristic of proprioception loss or cerebellar dysfunction

  • Sever's sign exacerbation of heel pain when standing on tiptoe on affected side; characteristic of calcaneal apophysitis (Sever's disease)

  • Stewart–Holmes sign; rebound phenomenon inability to control limb movement when passive limb resistance is suddenly released; characteristic of cerebellar dysfunction

  • suction sign increased ankle joint movement, with formation of a depression between lateral malleolus and talus (demonstrated by positive anterior drawer test); diagnostic of anterior talofibular ligament dysfunction

  • Sullivan's sign; sunray sign; daylight sign separation/divergence of two adjacent toes; characteristic of forefoot rheumatoid disease (i.e. metatarsophalangeal joint synovitis, intermetatarsal oedema, bursitis) or plantar digital neuroma

  • sunray sign see sign, Sullivan's

  • Tinel's sign dermatomal tingling/paraesthesia on percussion of subserving nerve trunk; characteristic of nerve trunk compression, nerve injury or early nerve repair subsequent to nerve lesion; e.g. paraesthesia in sole of a foot with tarsal tunnel syndrome, when tibial nerve is percussed posterior to medial malleolus; or in palm of a hand with carpal tunnel syndrome, when radial nerve is percussed at volar aspect of wrist

  • ‘too many toes’ sign visualization of fifth, fourth, third, second and even first toes when patient is viewed from behind when standing in relaxed calcaneal stance; characteristic of excess foot pronation/forefoot abduction

  • Trendelenburg's sign anterior tilt of upper pelvis on flexion of hip and knee of non-weight-bearing limb (i.e. during swing phase of gait) whilst weight-bearing on other leg (e.g. observed as patient climbs stairs); characteristic of congenital hip joint dislocation or hip adductor weakness (normally non-weight-bearing pelvis tilts upward during swing phase of gait)

  • Trousseau's sign sharp flexion movements of the wrist and metacarpophalangeal joints and extension of the fingers when a blood pressure cuff, inflated to above systolic pressure, is left in situ for 3 mins; characteristic of latent tetany and indicative of hypocalcaemia

  • Valleix' sign proximal tingling and plantar paraesthesia when tibial nerve is percussed posterior to medial malleolus (see sign, Tinel's)

  • vital signs signs of life (breathing, heart beat and sustained blood pressure)

  • Ward's sign distended/engorged superficial dorsal foot and lower-leg veins due to venous hypertension and secondary to arteriovenous shunting; characteristic of diabetic autonomic neuropathy


Objective evidence of a disease as distinguished from symptom, which is a subjective complaint of a patient. See diagnosis; prognosis.
Argyll Robertson sign See Argyll Robertson pupil.
Bell's sign Bell's phenomenon occurring on the affected side in Bell's palsy.
Bjerrum's sign See Bjerrum's scotoma.
Cogan's lid twitch sign A twitch of the upper eyelid in an eye with ptosis when the patient is asked to look in the primary position following a downward look. The eyelid then returns to its ptosis position. This condition occurs in myasthenia gravis.
Collier's sign Unilateral, or more commonly bilateral, eyelid retraction that exposes an unusual amount of the sclera of the eye above and below the iris; it gives the person a frightened or startled expression. It is due to a midbrain lesion. See Parinaud's syndrome.
sign convention A set of conventions regulating the direction of distances, lengths, and angles measured in geometrical optics. The most common is the New Cartesian Sign Convention. It stipulates: (1) All distances are measured from the lens, refracting surface or mirror. Those in the same direction as the incident light, which is drawn travelling from left to right, are positive. Those in the opposite direction are negative. (2) All distances are measured from the axis. Those above are positive. Those below are negative. (3) Angles are measured from the incident ray to the axis, with anticlockwise angles positive and clockwise angles negative. (4) The power of a converging lens is positive and that of a diverging lens is negative (Fig. S7). See focal length; Lagrange's law; law of refraction; Newton's formula; fundamental paraxial equation.
Dalrymple's sign Retraction of the eyelids causing an abnormally widened palpebral fissure, in primary gaze. This is a sign of Graves' disease. The patient appears to stare and to be frightened as some white sclera may be seen above the upper limbus.
doll's eye sign See doll's head phenomenon.
von Graefe's sign Immobility or lagging of the upper eyelid when looking downward. This is a sign of Graves' disease.
Gunn's crossing sign Tapering of veins on either side of the arteriovenous crossings seen in hypertensive retinopathy.
Hutchinson's sign A triad of signs present in congenital syphilis. They are interstitial keratitis, notched teeth and deafness.
local sign See oculocentric direction.
Moebius' sign Convergence weakness occurring in Graves' disease.
Mizuo's sign See Mizuo's phenomenon.
Munson's sign A sign observed in keratoconus in which the lower lid is bulging as a cone when the patient looks downward.
pseudo-von Graefe sign See aberrant regeneration.
Rizzuti's sign An arrowhead pattern near the nasal part of the corneoscleral limbus, sometimes seen in advanced keratoconus.
Salus' sign Retinal vein deflection from its normal course at arteriovenous crossings seen in hypertensive retinopathy.
Seidel's sign See Seidel's scotoma.
Shafer's sign The presence of pigment granules of various sizes floating in the anterior vitreous. They usually result from a retinal break/s, which may progress into rhegmatogenous retinal detachment. Then the pigment cells appear as small black dust-like particles ('tobacco dust') seen on clinical examination.
Vogt's sign Loss of the normal shagreen of the front surface of the crystalline lens indicating anterior capsular cataract. See crocodile shagreen.
Uhthoff's sign See Uhthoff's symptom.
Fig. S7 Sign convention at a spherical refracting surface S (O, object; A, vertex; C, centre of curvature; I, image; n , n ′, refractive indices)enlarge picture
Fig. S7 Sign convention at a spherical refracting surface S (O, object; A, vertex; C, centre of curvature; I, image; n, n′, refractive indices)


Any abnormality indicative of disease, discoverable on examination of patient; objective indication of disease, in contrast to a symptom, which is a subjective indication of disease.
[L. signum, mark]

sign (sīn),

n an indication of the existence of something; any objective evidence of a disease.
sign, Battle's, the ecchymosis that appears near the mastoid process of the temporal bone; indicative of a fracture of the base of the skull.
sign, Bell's, the turning up of the eyeball on the affected side when a patient with Bell's palsy attempts to close the eyelid.
sign, Nikolsky's, a diagnostic feature wherein apparently normal epithelium may be rubbed off with finger pressure.
sign, Tinel's, a paresthesia in the area served by a sensory nerve when the site of a lesion or injury to the nerve is percussed. Indicative of partial injury of a nerve or regeneration of an injured nerve.


any objective evidence of disease or dysfunction recognizable by the veterinarian. Symptoms, the subjective sensations experienced by human patients, are not definable in veterinary medicine and the term has no application to veterinarians.

cardinal s's
of greatest significance to the veterinarian; establishing the identity of the illness. Shown in abnormalities of the temperature, pulse and respiration. Key sign is a more appropriate expression for the important signs in a particular case on which the clinician will base his or her diagnosis.
presenting s's
the signs or group of signs about which the client complains or from which relief is sought.
withdrawal s's
those following sudden abstinence from a drug on which a patient is dependent.
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