Medical terminology is language provided to describe anatomical structures, procedures, conditions, processes, and also treatments. While medical terms may appear intimidating at an initial glance, once the basic word structure is understood and also the interpretations of some usual word facets are memorized, the definition of thousands of clinical terms can be quickly parsed.

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Most medical terms adhere come a fixed structure the a prefix, root, and suffix. These word materials are assembled like building blocks to produce a large vocabulary.

Greeks are thought about the co-founder of rational medicine and medical terms room primarily acquired from Greek and Latin.1 over centuries, the language of medication has progressed into multiple national medical languages. Today, clinical English is the leading language for global communication. Most significant medical journals space written in English and it has become the language of choice at global conferences.2

Basic Structure

Medical state are made up of these standard word parts:

Prefix: as soon as included, the prefix appears at the beginning of a medical term and usually suggests a location, direction, type, quality, or quantity. Root: The root gives a hatchet its important meaning. Virtually all clinical terms save at least one root. When a prefix is absent, the term begins with a root. Suffix: The suffix appears at the finish of the term and may indicate a specialty, test, procedure, function, disorder, or status. Otherwise, it may simply specify whether the word is a noun or adjective. Combining Vowel: A combining collection (usually the letter “o”) might be added between word parts to assist in pronunciation.

Breaking a word down to the component components should aid readers identify the an interpretation of an unfamiliar term. For example, hypothermia has the prefix hypo- (below normal), source therm (heat), and also suffix -ia (condition).


Word Roots

A source is the foundational aspect of any medical term. Roots often indicate a body part or system.

Common word roots:

brain enceph
ear ot, aur
eardrum tympan, myring
eye ophthalm, ocul
face faci
nose rhin
skull crani
tongue lingu
tooth odont, dent
Heart and Circulatory
aorta aort
arteries arteri
blood hem, sangu
blood vessels angi
heart cardi
veins ven, phleb
Bones and Muscles
arm brachi
back dorsa
bones oste
foot pod, ped
muscles myo
rib cost
shoulder scapul
wrist carp
Digestive system
appendix append
colon col
esophagus esophag
intestine (usually small) inter
kidney ren, neph
liver hepat
stomach gastr
Other common Roots
cancer carci
drug chem
electric electr
heat therm
knowledge gnos
life bi
pressure bar
returned sound echo

Compound Words

A clinical word may include multiple roots. This frequently occurs when referencing much more than one body part or system. Because that example, cardio-pulmo-nary way pertaining come the heart and also lungs; gastro-entero-logy way the study of the stomach and intestines.

Combining Forms

When a source is adhered to by another word part that begins with a consonant, a combining collection (usually the letter ‘o’) is added after the source (e.g. Neur-o-logy) to help pronunciation. The root and vowel together (e.g. Neur-o) are referred to as the combine form. Because that simplicity, combining vowel options are omitted from the word component tables.



A prefix modifies the an interpretation of words root. It may indicate a location, type, quality, body category, or quantity. The prefix is optional and does not show up in all clinical terms.

Common prefixes:

large macro-, mega(lo)-
small micro-
half semi-
half (one side) hemi-
one mono-, uni-
two | 3 | four bi- | tri- | qua(dr/r/t)-
equal equi-
many poly-
above normal hyper-
below normal hypo-
normal/good eu-
Time or speed
after post-
again re-
back/backward retro-
before pro-, pre-, ante-
fast tachy-
new neo-
time, lengthy time chron-
slow brady-
ar or relationship
away from ab-
above supra-
around peri-
across trans-
between inter-
out of, outside ex-, ec(t)-
self auto-
through, completely dia-
together con-
toward ad-
within, inside end(o)-
duty or quality
against anti-, contra-
bad mal-
cause eti-
self auto-
without a-, de-
not working correctly dys-


Medical terms always end through a suffix.3 The suffix usually indicates a specialty, test, procedure, function, condition/disorder, or status. Because that example, “itis” means inflammation and also “ectomy” means removal.

Alternatively, the suffix may simply make words a noun or adjective. The end -a, -e, -um, and also -us are typically used to produce a singular noun (e.g. Crani-um).

Though the suffix appears at the finish of the term, it often comes an initial in the definition. For example, appendicitismeans: inflammation (-itis) the the appendix.4 Accordingly, that is sometimes useful to check out unfamiliar clinical terms from appropriate to left.

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Occasionally, a medical term may be consisted of of a prefix and also suffix. Because that example, apnea has the prefix a- (without) and suffix -pnea (breathing).

Common suffix (letters in parenthesis space not constantly present):

an easy Noun and Adjective suffix
(noun form) -a, -e, -um, -is
causing -genic
condition -ia, -ism, -sis, -y
specialty -iatry, -iatrics, -ics
specialist -ian, -ist
structure -um, -us
study of -logy
pertaining to -ac, -ar(y), -(e/i)al, -ic(al), -ior, -ory,, -ous, -tic
Tests and Procedures
removal of -ectomy
image/record -gram
(making a) picture/record -graph(y)
cut in -otomy
viewing -scopy
opening -stomy
Pathology or duty
blood (condition of) -emia
breathing -pnea
inflammation -itis
condition or disease -osis
deficiency -penia
disease -pathy
excessive flow -rrhag(e/ia)
mass, tumor -oma

Plural Forms

The enhancement of an “s” or “es” come the finish of a indigenous is frequently the straightforward technique to make a word many in English and also many modern Romance languages. In medical terminology, however, things room a little more complicated. The plural form of each word is based on the last two letters the the singular suffix.

There are number of exceptions. Because that example, virus is a Latin term there is no a many form. “Viruses” is the accepted plural form. Elsewhere, the suffix “s” or “es” has occasionally dominated in typical usage. For example, the plural form of “hematoma” is “hematomas” fairly than “hematomata.”

Common singluar endings and corresponding plural endings:

many Forms5
Singular Plural
a ae
en ina
ex, ix, yx ices
is es
ma mata
(a/i/y)nx nges
um a
us i(i)

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