When talking about terms it should be with article (a/an) before the term? For example:

1 What is an urticaria?


2 What is urticaria?


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    Note, because urticaria begins with a vowel sound, you would use an urticaria. Except that since it is an uncountable or mass noun, you would usually not use the indefinite article before it. – user6951 Apr 12 '15 at 4:22
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    If you say "What does urticaria mean?", then you don't need an article even if it is a count noun. – snailplane Apr 12 '15 at 6:00

If you have never heard the word urticaria, you simply ask: What is urticaria. It is totally irrelevant whether it is a mass noun or not, or a term or not. You don't know the word, so you don't know what kind of word it is.

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It depends on the word you are asking about.

You would not use an article if you are asking about

  • A mass noun

    "What is spaghetti?"

  • A proper noun, or a name.

    "What is 'The New York Times'?"

  • A plural noun.

    "What are fish?" or "What is a fish?"

In every other context, you would use an article.

As for the example you gave, "urticaria" is a mass noun, so you should say:

"What is urticaria?"

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  • Urticaria would be "What is urticaria". It's an ailment and is singular. Even "hives", though plural sounding, should get the singular. See the first sentence of the Wikipedia article: "Urticaria [...] commonly referred to as hives, is a kind of skin rash notable for pale red, raised, itchy bumps." – Catija Apr 12 '15 at 5:23
  • Oh, okay, I will edit that in. – James Apr 12 '15 at 5:31
  • @Catija Some dictionaries call hives a 'plural noun' while others just say it can take either a singular or plural verb. See Free Dictionary and One Look – user6951 Apr 12 '15 at 13:58
  • Thank you. What is "mass noun"? – Judicious Allure Apr 12 '15 at 18:13
  • There is a link in my answer. A mass noun is any noun that you can't count, for example water, or grass. You cannot say "I have three water" – James Apr 12 '15 at 18:15

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