Medical Definition of Zebra

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Zebra: In medicine, a very unlikely diagnostic possibility. It comes from an old saying used in teaching medical students about how to think logically in regard to the differential diagnosis: 'When you hear hoof beats, think of horses, not zebras.' For example, when someone develops a mild transient cough, a virus infection is the most logical and likely cause, and tuberculosis is a zebra.

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