Both names are widely used, with what appears to me as a slight prevalence of “epinephrine” in scientific literature and an overwhelming prevalence of “adrenaline” in popular media.

Are there any well-documented and/or well-motivated guidelines for the usage of these terms?

  • $\begingroup$ epinephrine is common in medical practice.. in general biology the molecule is usually referred to as adrenaline. and the receptors are also called adrenergic receptors. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Dec 6 '13 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG epinephrine is certainly common in American medical practice, it's not universal across the entire profession however. $\endgroup$ – Rory M Dec 6 '13 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ AFAIK, they're the same molecule, so the nomenclature is interchangeable. Despite the answer by @TheChymera, I see Epinephrine used more often nowadays in publications. $\endgroup$ – Tico Dec 8 '13 at 7:33

Apparently I asked too soon. Summarizing my recent findings, I conclude that adrenaline is the better term.

To be more explicit, here is why:

  • The US National Library of Medicine recommends “epinephrine”, this is however mainly due to historical reasons (adrenaline used to be a trademark name in the USA).
  • This quite comprehensive paper on the issue presents a series of arguments for the use of “adrenaline”. These include: Better compatibility with other languages (where epinephrine is not at all in use); Better integration with other biological terms (adrenergic receptors, adrenal gland, adrenectomy, etc.); Better historical accuracy (epinephrine used to be the name for a neurochemically inactive crude extract from the adrenal glands).

I find the arguments of the referenced publication convincing, though I would recomend you read them in full.


Epinephrine and norepinephrine is used in the US mainly. This is where the term epi-pen comes from. Everywhere else we tend to use Adrenaline and noradrenaline. Epinephrine is typically only used in literature arising from the US or US English speaking countries. In most countries they use adrenaline and also include Epinephrine so our American cousins don't miss our publications. Adrenaline is the better term as it is more widely understood by scientists, health professionals and the public. However at the end of the day they're the same thing.


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