An instrument inserted into the body so that internal areas can be inspected. Traditionally, a medical speculum has two "blades" which are attached to each other at one end, and can be inserted into an orifice and then spread apart to hold that orifice open. (There is a relatively new four-blade vaginal speculum on the market as well.)

Most commonly heard of in connection with women's gynecology exams, where a speculum is used to hold the walls of the vagina apart so that pap smear samples and such can be taken from the cervix. A different design of speculum is also used in eye surgery procedures (such as LASIK) to hold the eye open. A Google search also finds references to nasal, ear, and rectal specula.

Speculum is also a journal published by the Medieval Academy of America, printing articles on "all fields of medieval studies." The journal, founded in 1926, was the first North American scholarly journal devoted only to medieval studies, and includes studies of approximately A.D. 500-1500, primarily focusing on Western Europe, but Byzantine, Hebrew, Arabic, and Slavic studies are also included.

When I was a medic in the Army, I worked in a combat support hospital. We used to take a tent hospital out to the field, set it up and work it for a week to a month at a time. I worked in the ER, but we had wards, ICUs, radiology, lab, physical therapy etc. etc., including a chaplain.

One day we were sitting in the ER tent, just talking, when the chaplain, a Catholic priest, stopped by. Somehow the discussion had gotten onto specula (perhaps discussing the two different types of vaginal specula, Graves and Pedersen, or the sizes..). Out of nowhere, the priest said "I can tell what size of speculum a woman needs by looking at her mouth. Women with large mouths need a large speculum. For example, Private X. would take a small, Specialist Y. would take a medium and Sergeant Z. would take a medium". Our platoon sergeant, a woman with the largest mouth I had ever seen, pursed her lips and said "Uh reulluy?" (translates to Oh really?)

Needless to say, we died laughing.. but it was very disturbing and wrong on SO many levels...

Spec"u*lum (?), n.; pl. L. Specula (#), E. Speculum (#). [L., fr. specere to look, behold. See Spy.]


A mirror, or looking-glass; especially, a metal mirror, as in Greek and Roman archaeology.


A reflector of polished metal, especially one used in reflecting telescopes. See Speculum metal, below.

3. Surg.

An instrument for dilating certain passages of the body, and throwing light within them, thus facilitating examination or surgical operations.

4. (Zool.)/fld>

A bright and lustrous patch of color found on the wings of ducks and some other birds. It is usually situated on the distal portions of the secondary quills, and is much more brilliant in the adult male than in the female.

Speculum metal, a hard, brittle alloy used for making the reflectors of telescopes and other instruments, usually consisting of copper and tin in various proportions, one of the best being that in which there are 126.4 parts of copper to 58.9 parts of tin, with sometimes a small proportion of arsenic, antimony, or zinc added to improve the whiteness.


© Webster 1913.

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