Say my doctor tells me that my grandfather has only a few months to live.

What do we call such a prediction based on a medical condition?

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    @HotLicks I heard of someone who went to the funeral of a doctor who had earlier told him he only had months to live. – WS2 Feb 5 '15 at 18:48
  • @WS2 What is the word for that? Irony? – Centaurus Feb 5 '15 at 19:00
  • @Centaurus I did also hear of a chap who got committed to a psychiatric hospital, but shortly thereafter discharged himself saying the doctors were more stupid than he was. – WS2 Feb 5 '15 at 19:10
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    @WS2 and friends: The etymology of prognosis notwithstanding, doctors are not fortune tellers. They work with data which yield median survival statistics. He may have heard, "you will die in 2 months" but it's likely that what was said was closer to, "based on your diagnosis of X disease at Y stage, the median survival is 2 months."(Standard deviation available upon request.) If he goes on and lives a year, the issue is not that the doctor was wrong but that the patient didn't understand probability. (Understandably so, for the dying patient - not so much for the commentators on SE :-)) – Susan Feb 6 '15 at 8:32

The word is "prognosis". (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

1: a doctor's opinion about how someone will recover from an illness or injury

2: a judgment about what is going to happen in the future

  • "It's a very good prognosis. She will recover completely"
  • "He's undergone surgery plus chemotherapy. Still it's a somber prognosis."
  • "What is my prognosis, doctor? Very good, Mrs Barnard. The tumor has been removed and you are cured."
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    Not too sure about the "somber prognosis" or the "prognosis is somber". Perhaps "cautious" or "reserved" is better suited. Your 3rd example reads like an outdated line from the series Dr. Kildare 😊 – Mari-Lou A Feb 5 '15 at 18:53
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    And I am delighted to have it confirmed to me by my dictionary that the wonderful word prognostication does exist - meaning 'a prophecy'. – WS2 Feb 5 '15 at 18:54
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    Diagnosis is knowledge of what's wrong with you, and prognosis is knowledge of what's expected to happen next... are there any more "...gnos" words? I see a few like "cognos..." and of course "agnos..." but that's about it... – Joffan Feb 5 '15 at 18:56
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    @Mari-LouA In medicine we use the word "somber" in this context. – Centaurus Feb 5 '15 at 18:57
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    @Joffan there's "gnosis" and "gnostic"; and wonderfully there is prosopagnosia. – Matt Gutting Feb 5 '15 at 20:01

Medicine: prognosis (a prediction of) the likely outcome of a disease in a general or particular case... the alternative word is "prognostication"

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    Prognostication is the act of making a prognosis. It is not a substitute for prognosis. – Jim Feb 5 '15 at 19:00
  • Exactly...thought I might contribute to some rewriting. – Mauli Davidson Feb 5 '15 at 19:08
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    @Jim The OED does recognise prognostication as an exact synonym of prognosis, as well as the act of making such. It is however stated nowadays to be 'rare'. – WS2 Feb 5 '15 at 19:20

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