Medical hatchet is language used to define anatomical structures, procedures, conditions, processes, and treatments. While clinical terms may show up intimidating at an initial glance, once the simple word framework is understood and also the meanings of some typical word facets are memorized, the meaning of thousands of medical terms deserve to be easily parsed.

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Most medical terms adhere come a fixed structure that a prefix, root, and also suffix. These word contents are assembled like structure blocks to develop a huge vocabulary.

Greeks are thought about the co-founder of reasonable medicine and medical terms room primarily obtained from Greek and also Latin.1 over centuries, the language of medication has progressed into multiple national clinical languages. Today, medical English is the leading language for global communication. Most significant medical journals are written in English and also it has end up being the language of an option at global conferences.2

Basic Structure

Medical terms are made up of these standard word parts:

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

Breaking a word down to the component parts should help readers determine the definition of an unfamiliar term. For example, hypothermia has actually the prefix hypo- (below normal), root therm (heat), and also suffix -ia (condition).


Word Roots

A source is the foundational facet of any type of medical term. Roots regularly indicate a body component or system.

Common native 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 also Circulatory
aorta aort
arteries arteri
blood hem, sangu
blood vessels angi
heart cardi
veins ven, phleb
Bones and also Muscles
arm brachi
back dorsa
bones oste
foot pod, ped
muscles myo
rib cost
shoulder scapul
wrist carp
Digestive mechanism
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 medical word may encompass multiple roots. This typically occurs when referencing more than one body component or system. Because that example, cardio-pulmo-nary method pertaining come the heart and lungs; gastro-entero-logy method the research of the stomach and intestines.

Combining Forms

When a source is followed by another word component that begins with a consonant, a combining vowel (usually the letter ‘o’) is included after the root (e.g. Neur-o-logy) to assist pronunciation. The root and also vowel with each other (e.g. Neur-o) are referred to as the combine form. For simplicity, combine vowel alternatives are omitted from the word component tables.



A prefix modifies the meaning of the word root. It may suggest a location, type, quality, human body category, or quantity. The prefix is optional and also does not appear in all clinical terms.

Common prefixes:

large macro-, mega(lo)-
small micro-
half semi-
half (one side) hemi-
one mono-, uni-
two | three | four bi- | tri- | qua(dr/r/t)-
equal equi-
many poly-
above normal hyper-
below normal hypo-
normal/good eu-
Time or rate
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)-
function or high quality
against anti-, contra-
bad mal-
cause eti-
self auto-
without a-, de-
not working correctly dys-


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

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

Though the suffix shows up at the finish of the term, it regularly comes first in the definition. Because that example, appendicitismeans: inflammation (-itis) the the appendix.4 Accordingly, it is sometimes helpful to read unfamiliar medical terms from appropriate to left.

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

Common suffixes (letters in parenthesis space not always present):

straightforward Noun and also 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 role
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 regularly the straightforward an approach to make a word many in English and also many modern-day Romance languages. In clinical terminology, however, things are a little much more complicated. The plural kind of every word is based upon the last 2 letters the the singular suffix.

There are number of exceptions. For example, virus is a Latin term without a plural form. “Viruses” is the accepted plural form. Elsewhere, the suffix “s” or “es” has occasionally dominated in usual usage. Because that example, the plural type of “hematoma” is “hematomas” rather than “hematomata.”

Common singluar endings and also corresponding many endings:

plural 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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