Glossary : A guide to Circumcision

A description of the many medical terms used in this circumcision guide.


Anaesthesia A substance which causes a loss of feeling (in a part of the body) or is used to put the patient to sleep. This includes local, regional and general anaesthesia.



Inflammation of the glans of the penis.

Balanitis xerotica obliterans A skin condition which affects the foreskin and glans of the penis, causing them to harden and become inflamed.


Inflammation of both the foreskin and glans of the penis.


Circumcision An operation to remove a part or all of the foreskin. This is usually undertaken for religious reasons.

Clitoris A part of the female genitalia: this is a small bud-shaped section of skin which lies at the top of the opening to the vagina. It is highly sensitive and is designed to give sexual pleasure.



The name given to a secretion from a part of the body.

Dorsal slit

A surgical procedure in which a long, single incision is made along the foreskin to loosen it. It was often performed as a treatment for phimosis although it has largely been replaced by preputioplasty.


Electrocautery Using electric currents as a means of sealing blood vessels and burning (cauterising) tissues which have been cut. An example of this is a bipolar instrument in which electrical currents pass between two electrodes.

Bipolar diathermy can be used during circumcision.



This is the glove-like fold of skin which covers the glans of the penis. The medical name for this is prepuce.

Frenulum The thin, string like tissue which connects the inner layer of the foreskin to the glans. This is commonly known as the ‘banjo string’.

A too tight frenulum – known as ‘frenulum breve’ can restrict the movement of the foreskin.



The head or tip of the penis.


Hygiene The practice of good health and cleanliness. It is designed to prevent illness and disease.


Incision The technical name for the cut made during surgery.


A child aged 2 and under.


None at present.


Keloid A type of scar: this takes the appearance of an angry, red growth of tissue which forms over a wound.



Also a part of the female genitalia: this takes the form of two lip-shaped folds of skin which sit either side of the opening to the vagina. They are highly sensitive and enlarge in size when sexually aroused.


Meatal stenosis

A condition in which there is a constriction of the opening to the urethra at the head of the penis. The word ‘stenosis’ means a narrowing or constriction.

The ‘meatus’ is the vertical slit on the tip of the penis which acts as an opening to the urethra.

This can occur as a result of phimosis or after circumcision.


Necrosis The medical term for tissue death.



The name given to a gel, oil or cream which is applied to the skin (topical) as a form of treatment.


Paraphimosis A serious condition in which a retracted foreskin becomes trapped under the glans leading to pain and swelling.


Refers to the penis.

Penis The male sexual organ. This performs several functions such as expelling urine and semen as well as sexual intercourse.


A condition in which the foreskin is too tight and cannot be fully retracted. This may cause problems such as urinary retention.

Plastibell A plastic ring shaped device used in circumcision surgery. This is placed around the foreskin and tightened which causes this to die and fall off.

Posthitis An inflammation of the foreskin.


The medical name for the foreskin.


None at present.


Root The name given to the base of the penis which lies inside the body.



The pouch like structure that hangs outside the body (lower abdomen) and contains the testicles.

Shaft The main part of the penis: this is the cylinder shaped body of the penis.


A white substance which consists of dead skin cells and oil that is secreted by the foreskin. It acts as a lubricant and helps to keep the tip of the penis moist.

Syphilis A sexually transmitted disease which is caused by the transmission of bacteria via sexual intercourse. This can cause serious damage if left untreated and in some cases, it may be fatal.


None at present.


Urethra This is a slim tube that runs from the bladder to outside of the body. It is present in both men and women although it is shorter in women.

Its main function is to carry urine outside of the body although it carried both urine and semen in men.

Urine The pale yellow (or amber coloured) fluid which is transported out of the body via the urethra.


None at present.


None at present.


None at present.


None at present.


Zoon’s balanitis The name of a type of balanitis which affects the glans and usually occurs in older men.

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