Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
site header image


Welcome to the PubMed research guide.

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) Vocabulary

MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) is the U.S. National Library of Medicine's controlled vocabulary, a standard collection of terms used to index article contents.

Medical Subject Headings

  • MeSH terminology imposes uniformity and consistency to the indexing of the biomedical literature.
  • Searching using MeSH pulls together all articles on a concept including synonyms (myocardial infarction/heart attack) and allows for spelling variations (estrogen/oestrogen).

When searching for a MeSH term such as flu in the MeSH database, the results will include:

  • The entry term translated to MeSH terminology: Influenza, human.
  • A display of Subheadings.
    (If none are selected, results will include results with or without the subheadings;
    if two (2) or more are selected, then results will include  citations that include any of the subheadings selected.)
  • A display of a MeSH term in the hierarchy of terms, for example

MeSH Mapping

Using the MeSH browser feature of PubMed helps you to translate your term into the vocabulary of the database. For example, your entry term: "texting" gets translated to text messaging, the MeSH term:

Below are more examples:

Entry Term 
MeSH Term
Text messaging [MeSH]
Influenza, human [MeSH]
hand washing
Handwashing [MeSH]
hospital infection
Cross infection [MeSH]
nurse absenteeism
Absenteeism [MeSH]
pressure mattress
Beds [MeSH]
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [MeSH]
ventilator associated pneumonia
pneumonia, ventilator-associated"[MeSH]
nurse patient ratio
Nursing Staff, Hospital/supply & distribution [MeSH]
Personnel Staffing and Scheduling/statistics & numerical data [MeSH]
Accidental falls [MeSH]
Restraint, physical [MeSH]
electronic medical record
Electronic health records [MeSH]