The Comprehensive CPR Glossary of Terms and Definitions 

A Comprehensive Glossary of CPR Terms and Definitions

Part of understanding how to perform CPR involves understanding the CPR Glossary of Terms, we’ll discuss this here. Getting acquainted with the common terminology and lingo medical professionals use greatly benefits those who are coming into contact with instructional sheets for the first time. 

It is a common practice in the medical profession to use abbreviations and acronyms, which is why we find providing the technical jargon both imperative and essential. 

By compiling this comprehensive guide of CPR glossary terms and conditions, we aim to provide beginner learners with greater insight, ensuring they master both the material and practice more easily. Being able to revisit the terms and definitions we discuss in this article would be of great help and aid the completion of CPR courses. 

To provide optimal structure and clarity to this guide, we’ve listed the terms in alphabetical order, as follows, from A to Z. 

Adult – An individual who has already gone through the process of puberty. 

Airway –  The pathway used to bring air into the lungs. The mouth and nose are both considered entry points, then air passes through the pharynx (the back of the throat), down the trachea finally reaching the bronchi (branching tubes).

AED Automated External Defibrillator – The AED is a portable device powered by computerized electronics that analyzes cardiac rhythm. This compact device is easy to use and allows operators to administer shock only when problems such as ventricular fibrillation are detected. 

ACLS Advanced Cardiac Life Support – a set of clinical guidelines administered only by emergency response teams and medical personnel. It goes beyond the basic life support practices and incorporates techniques and procedures that treat immediate life-threatening situations, including airway and pharmacological intervention. 

Alert – best described as the ability to think clearly under difficult circumstances. Particular situations, such as the one when a person is experiencing cardiac arrest, require a levelheaded response and the ability to stay focused and act accordingly when under pressure. 

Assess- entails evaluating a given state or situation, which will allow an individual to act accordingly. Life-threatening situations ask for medical staff and trainees to possess basic assessment literacy.  


BLS Basic Life Support – Used as an umbrella term for basic first aid CPR treatment. It refers to the medical care administered to individuals in critical conditions until a medical team arrives and the patient has access to hospital treatment. 

BLS for Healthcare Providers Course – a course that covers the basics of both pediatric and adult CPR and the practice of automated external defibrillation. They are commonly offered by renowned organizations such as the American Red Cross and American Heart Association

Bystander CPR – when cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is performed by a nearby person who does not participate in any organized emergency response team. As AHA statistics imply, bystander CPR is crucial to improving cardiac arrest survival rates. 

Breathing – the air can freely pass in and out of the lungs without any obstructions. When a person is breathing properly the chest rises and falls accordingly. If this is not the case, be prepared to administer rescue breaths.  


Cardiac – a word of Latin and Greek origin that has been transferred into our language as part of the common medical jargon and is used to describe all that is connected to the heart. 

Cardiopulmonary –  commonly used as part of medicinal technical vocabulary to refer to matters that have to do with both the heart and the lungs. 

Cardiovascular – refers to the entire cardiovascular system, meaning the heart and blood vessels which supply all the organs with oxygen and nutrients, allowing them to perform. 

Cheek – commonly known as the side of the face below the eye; in medical terms, it also refers to the side wall of the mouth. 

Chest – also known as thorax in Latin, denotes the part of the body which is located between the neck and abdomen and is compromised by a rib cage and breastbone externally while inside, it holds important breathing structures such as the lungs and heart. 

Chin – Medically known as the mentum, the chin is found in the lower jaw and marks the fusion between the two halves of the jawbone. 

Circulation – Speaking in medical terms specifically, circulation is used to refer to the movement of blood, following its regular course of reaching all points within the body. This is important for explaining cardiac arrest, as when it occurs, blood flow is abrupt, and blood does not reach the brain or other parts of the body. 

Compress – in CPR, compression and the verb compress refer to the act of using your hands to put pressure onto the chest of a patient to stimulate heart reaction and blood flow. 

CPR Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation – is a manual operation that has the purpose of restoring spontaneous blood circulation and breathing to a person experiencing cardiac arrest.  

Chain of Survival – guidelines offered by the AHA which are to be followed in order to increase chances of survival when a person is experiencing cardiac arrest. (find more information here) 

Defibrillation – delivering electrical shock to the heart to treat sudden cardiac arrest symptoms and restore normal heart rhythm.  

Defibrillator –  commonly used as a substitute for AED Automated External Defibrillator. 

Emergency Model Services – an organization that delivers medical care to citizens in need. 

Emergency Medical Technician – a certified medical professional skilled in delivering basic life support, including CPR and defibrillation. 

External Defibrillation –  denotes defibrillation current delivered to the heart by means of electrodes.  

Heart Attack – a serious medical emergency in which blood flow is severely restricted or blocked. It is accompanied by chest pain, and unlike in the case of heart arrest, victims may remain conscious and breathe.

Heart Arrest – entails sudden heart failure, a loss of consciousness, and breathing.  

Infant – a child under the age of one. 

Life Support – a technique or practice designed to support, restore and preserve normal bodily function when the system faces an inability of doing so. 

Oxygen – an odorless, tasteless gas which is essential to our life being and makes up around 20% of the air we breathe. 

Paramedic – a medical professional trained to respond in a wide variety of medical emergencies, including Advanced Cardiac Life Support and qualified to respond in cases of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  

PAD Public Access Defibrillation Program – refers to providing access to defibrillators in public spaces, which will serve as support to bystander response. 

Pulse – typically felt on the side of the neck or the wrist, a pulse is described as the rhythmical throbbing of arteries that is a result of blood passing through. 

Respiratory – the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, a medical term for breathing.  

Resuscitation – the action or process that entails bringing back someone into a state of consciousness. 

Shock – a state of the sudden drop of blood flow in the body, also described as the body’s failure to maintain adequate blood flow, also marked by an inability to provide organs with oxygen. 

SCA Sudden Cardiac Arrest –  SCA is a medical emergency in which the heart suddenly stops pumping and blood is not distributed to vital organs, including the brain. 

SCD Sudden Cardiac Death –  is a result of sudden cardiac arrest that occurs within a short time period due to the inability to restore proper heart function. 

Ventricular – carries a reference to the lower parts of the heart. 

Ventricular Fibrillation –  denotes an abnormal rhythm caused by a rapid contraction within the lower chambers of the heart. This causes a disruption between the heartbeat and pulse and is commonly associated with heart attacks. 

CPR Vest – is a device that performs chest compressions with the help of a pulmonary pump while also reducing the risk of injury. It was designed in an effort to optimize CPR practices. 

Why is the CPR Glossary of Terms Important? 

Becoming familiar with the – CPR Glossary of Terms and lingo medical professionals use will increase your chances of navigating smoother through the field of medicine. This glossary serves both as a resource and guide, providing learners with access to terms that might not be in the eye of the general public. The ultimate purpose of this Comprehensive CPR Glossary of Terms and Definitions is to make the terminology easily understandable by presenting word explanations clearly and coherently. Nonetheless, since this is an extensive field, within the list above, we aimed to include the essentials that will bring the most worth when completing a CPR certification course.