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A Google search was not immediately helpful, but I found this document: http://www.aan.com/globals/axon/assets/3078.pdf

According to this, a Standards Guide by the American Academy of Neurology, neurologic is preferred over neurological.

Is there any difference between these two words? If so, what is it? When should I use which and why?

marked as duplicate by J.R., MetaEd, tchrist, Marthaª, user11550 Aug 28 '12 at 16:30

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    For what it's worth, I read neuroscience literature occasionally and have taken a graduate class in it, and I can't recall ever seeing neurologic, though neurological is used often. I can't think of an instance where the meaning changes. – Rachel Aug 25 '12 at 5:52
  • Interesting. I work in Pharmacy & often see both. In newer materials, I feel as though I see neurologic much more frequently than neurological. – aelephant Aug 25 '12 at 5:54
  • After some more thought, I've probably seen neurologic disorder, though not as often as the other. Other places where neurological seems a bit wrong or clumsy, e.g., to modify pathways, neural or even neuronal come to mind as more apt and common (though the latter two have very slightly different meanings from each other). – Rachel Aug 25 '12 at 6:00
  • It might be a usage bias of mine (which is perhaps affecting my memory). I highly prefer to say neurological myself. I have also noticed that I habitually use morhpological instead of morphologic. But I don't say semantical or syntactical, so who knows. Maybe there's no method to my madness. – Rachel Aug 25 '12 at 6:05
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    I don't get some of our close-voters: not constructive??? WTF? – Marthaª Aug 25 '12 at 14:27

In my experience with the medical community and scientific literature, neurological is a far more common adjective than neurologic. However, as far as I can tell, both words are equally correct when used to refer to the study of, or anything pertaining to, the nervous system. But a quick example might help to illustrate the relative prevalence of the two.

A pubmed.org search for scientific papers with titles containing neurological yields about 20,000 responses; an identical search for neurologic yields 10,000. By that token, neurological is twice as common as neurologic.

The bottom line is: you can't go wrong with either.

  • Thanks for the research, it didn't occur to me to search for prevalence on pubmed. I think I have a personal preference for "neurologic" just because it is shorter. If the 2 words mean the same thing & "neurologic" saves space & keystrokes, why not use it? – aelephant Aug 25 '12 at 6:45
  • @aelephant: I'm not sure that "saving two keystrokes" is a good reason to choose one over the other. It might be best to do some additional research first – like this – and see if those in the field follow conventions. I believe you can go wrong – if, at a conference for neurologists, you pick one that's seldom used, or opt to save two keystrokes in the title of a paper, thereby taking a credibility hit. – J.R. Aug 25 '12 at 8:22
  • Searches on google (for lone words or phrases) return even wider disparities. If are curious about speakers' preferences, it occured to me that their prosodic patterns might play a role. This seems to hold true for my own case. It also could explain why you might find preferences varying depending on the surrounding words (when this isn't explained by something else like a phrase becoming fixed). – Rachel Aug 25 '12 at 8:23
  • Very cool J.R.! I didn't even know Google Ngram existed! I added "neurologic toxicity" & "neurological toxicity" to the search here & found that neurologic toxicity is more commonly used, so it appears to be context-specific. – aelephant Aug 25 '12 at 8:29
  • @James: A pubmed.org search for papers with neurological research in the abstract/title returned 142 papers, while those with neurologic research returned only 25. I won't argue that you're wrong, because I don't know enough about the subject, but I will point out that your bottom line seems like a hastily-drawn conclusion after so little research. – J.R. Aug 25 '12 at 8:41

As you point out, in the American Academy of Neurology Writing Styles And Standards Guide, available online at http://www.aan.com/globals/axon/assets/3078.pdf, there is the entry on page 11:

Neurologic vs. Neurological — The word neurologic is preferred to neurological when used as an adjective.

I don't think it gets any more authoritative in this field than that. It is a preference, a style decision.

For what it's worth, we use neurologic in our veterinary publications, too. We consider it a style decision. When we copyedit manuscripts, we change neurological to neurologic (unless the word is part of a cited reference title, of course.) Neither form is "wrong," it's just a preference, and we try to be consistent.

We also use, for example, endocrinologic instead of endocrinological and radiologic instead of radiological.


As I understand it, this is similar to the historic/historical situation.

Neurological is the adjective for the discipline of neurology - neurology-cal, and neurologic is the adjective for neural. The medical problems are neurologic diseases, possibly discovered by a neurological examination

Curiously, my unabridged Collins doesn't even list neurologic, but has neurological for both neural and neurology. Princeton Wordnet lists both, but with identical definitions.

  • I don't think you can make the distinction you make in your sentence with the links. You link to two different organizations' sites. They probably have chosen one over the other for their style. – JLG Aug 25 '12 at 14:19
  • That is true only if you assume that the distinction is purely one of style. You describe the style guide below as not getting 'any more authoritative in this field than that', but I see style guides as being inherently un-authoritative, partly because they are frequently contradicted by academic writing (which I see as more authoritative), and partly because they invariably contradict each other. As they can't all be right, what grounds do you have for saying any particular one is the ultimate authority? – Roaring Fish Aug 25 '12 at 14:29
  • I do think it is a matter of style. And I think if you want to be in line with the "big dog" in a field, then in the field of neurology, the AAN is it. Your use of links from two different sources doesn't prove your assertion that one term is for the discipline and one is for the disease (or whatever your distinction between the terms was meant to be). It just shows that two different organizations chose different styles. If you search the Boston Children's Hospital site (your link for neurological examination), you'll also find "neurological disease" used. – JLG Aug 25 '12 at 14:38
  • Interesting factoid: Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 30th Edition, doesn't list neurological at all. It just has neurologic: pertaining to neurology or to the nervous system. – JLG Aug 25 '12 at 14:44
  • As I said earlier, Collins Unabridged has it the other way - they can't both be right. I agree that if you want to submit material you follow the style guide. The point I was making is that a style guide is not an academic authority that can be used as 'proof' of anything. – Roaring Fish Aug 25 '12 at 15:05

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