A Glossary of Nail Conditions

There are many different tongue-twisting terms to describe nail conditions, so we thought we'd provide a glossary of terms you may hear relating to the nails.  

For more information on specific nail conditions, please visit our web page on information about nail disorders and their treatment.  

The glossary is in alphabetical order, but I'll start by mentioning that Onyx is the Greek word for nail, and Unguis is the Latin word for nail.  Knowing this makes it easier to see the derivation of many of the words below, many of which contain the prefix "onych-" or "ungui-".  


Anatomy of Nail


Agnail--another word for Hangnail.

Anonychia--the absence of a nail.  This word comes from the Greek prefix "a-", meaning "without", and "onych-" meaning "nail".  

Eponychium--another word for the proximal nail fold pictured above.

Granuloma--overgrowth of highly vascular (good blood supply) soft tissue, typically caused from chronic irritation of a nail, such as an ingrown nail.  A good example is the red tissue on the side of the nail as shown in the picture of the ingrown nail below.  

Hangnail--a small loose flap of skin next to a nail plate.  Another word for Agnail.

Hapalonychia--soft nails.  Same as Onychomalacia.  

Hyponychium--the skin under the tip of the nail (see the picture above).

Incurvated Nails--nails which are curved and dig into the side of the skin, but without breaking the skin and being truly ingrown.  Same as Onychoincurvatum.  Note the difference between an Ingrown nail or onychocrpytosis.  

Ingrown Nails--nails which are digging into the skin, thereby causing a break in the skin.  Ingrown nails are characterized by inflammation and because of the break in the skin, they are frequently infected.  We have a separate web page that discusses ingrown nails, and another web page that discusses nail surgery.  Another word for this is Onychocryptosis.  Note the difference between this and Onychoincurvatum

Koilonychia--spoon-shaped nails.

Leukonychia--white discoloration of the nail.  When leukonychia appears as a white line or series of white lines, it is known as leukonychia striata.  (Example of leukonychia striata is shown on the right.)  When leukonychia appears as white spots or white dots, it is known as leukonychia punctata.  White nails may also be an early manifestation of fungal nails.  

Lunula--the white part at the base of the nail.  The lunula is illustrated in the diagram at the top of the page.

Matrix--the root of the nail.  The place from which the nail grows.

Onycha- or Onycho- is a prefix meaning "nail".  It comes from the Greek word for nail, "Onyx". 

Onychauxis--thickening of the nail.  (See picture to the right.)

Onychitis--inflammation of the nail bed.  

Onychocyanosis--bluish colour to the nail, usually from a circulatory or hear disorder.  

Onychocryptosis--another word for an Ingrown nail.  We have a separate web page that discusses ingrown nails, and another web page that discusses nail surgery.

Onychodystrophy--generalized term for any malformation of the nail.

Onychogryphosis--severe overgrowth of nails to the extent that the nails have the appearance of a ram's horn.  (See picture to the right.)

Onychoheterotropia--abnormally located nails.

Onychoincurvatum--an incurvated nail, without necessarily being ingrown.  

Onycholysis--loosening of the nail plate from a border.  May result in Onychoptosis

Onychomalacia--soft nails.  Same as Hapalonychia.  Opposite of Onychorrhexis.  

Onychomadesis--complete loss of nails.

Onychomalia--abnormally thin nails.

Onychomycosis--fungus in the nail.

Onychophagia--chewing of the nails.

Onychophosis--callus in the nail groove, common with incurvated nails.  

Onychophyma--painful hypertrophy (enlargment or swelling) of nail.

Onychoptosis--periodic shedding of part or all of nail.  May be preceded by Onycholysis.  

Onychorrhexis--abnormal brittleness of nails.  Opposite of Onychomalacia or Hapalonchia.

Onychotillomania--compulsive picking at a nail.

Onychotomy--surgical removal of nail.

Onyx--Greek word for nail.  See Unguis.  

Paronychia--infection and overgrowth reaction of the soft tissues around the nail.  (See picture to the right.)

 Platonychia--increased curvature of the nail in the long axis, (where the nail is growing around the tip of the toe).  

Pterygium--overgrowth of the cuticle.  (See picture to the right.)

Trachyonychia-- rough nail surfaces.

Tinea unguium--fungus in the nail caused by dermatophytes.  See onychomycosis.

Unguis--the Latin word for nail.  See Onyx.  

Unguis incarnatus--ingrowing Nail.




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This website is operated by 
The Achilles Foot Health Centre
S. A. Schumacher, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S., F.A.C.F.A.O.M.  
Dr. S. A. Schumacher, Podiatric Corporation  

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www.The FootDoctor.ca