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Medical terminology dictionary



At first glance, medical terminology can seem like a foreign language. But often the key to understanding medical terms is focusing on their components (prefixes, roots and suffices).

Knowing the meaning of a small number of components can help with interpretation of a large number of medical terms.

Fundamental Elements of a Medical Word

Parts of a medical word

Suffix: last part of a word
Prefix: first part of a word
Root: main part of a word

Example 1: sub/cutane/ous means pertaining to under the skin.
-ous is the suffix meaning "pertaining to"
sub- is the prefix meaning "under"
cutane/o is the root meaning "skin

Example 2 : electro/cardio/gram means record of the electrical activity of the heart.
-gram is the suffix meaning "record"
electr/o is the root meaning "electric"
cardi/o is the root meaning "heart"

Listing of Commonly Used Medical Terms, Prefixes, Roots and Suffices

  a-   no, lack of, absence of
   achlorhydria   lack of hydrochloric acid
  afebrile   no fever
  akinesia   lack of movement
  amenorrhoea   no menstruation
  acou, acu   hear
  aden/o   gland
  adenitis   inflammation of a gland
  adenocarcinoma   malignant tumour of glandular tissue
  adip/o   fat
  adipose   pertaining to fat
  aer(o)-   air
  -algia   pain
  andr/o   male; man
  ang-   distress; choke
   angina   distress pain
  angi/o   vessel
  angiogram   record or image of a blood vessel produced by x-rays
  angioplasty   a clinical procedure that removes areas of constriction in a blood vessel
  ankyl/o   crooked; bent; curved
  ante-   before
  antenatal   before birth with reference to the fetus
  anter/o   front; forward
  anti-   against
  antibiotics   drugs used to prevent the growth or life of a disease-causing microorganism
  antiemetics   drugs used to relieve vomiting
  arteri(o)   artery
  arteriography   process of producing an x-ray image of an artery following injection of a contrast medium
  arthr/o   joint
  arthritis   inflammation of a joint
  -ase   enzyme
  amylase   enzyme that breaks down starch
  audi/o   hearing
  audiometry   process of measuring a patientís hearing ability
  aur/o   ear
  audi(o)   hearing
  aut(o)   self
  autograft   transplant of tissue from one part of the patientís body to another
  bi-   two
  bisection   cutting into two parts
  bi/o   life
  biopsy   microscopic examination of living tissue for abnormalities
  -blast   immature stage; growing thing
  erythroblast   immature red blood cell
  brady-   slow
  bucc/o   cheek
  buccal cavity   mouth or oral cavity
  CABG   Coronary artery bypass graft
  carcin(o)   cancer
  carcinogenic   agent that produces cancer
  cardi/o   heart
  cardiologist   a specialist in the study of heart disease
  -centesis   surgical puncture to remove fluid
  amniocentesis   a surgical puncture to remove amniotic fluid from the amnion
  cephal(o)   head
  cerebr(o)   brain
  chol/e   bile; gall
  cholelithiasis   abnormal condition of gallstone
  chondr/o   cartilage
  chondroblast   immature cartilage cell
  cili/o   hair
  circum-   around
  cis/o   to cut
  excision   surgical removal of an organ or part by cutting
  incision   the process of cutting into a structure with a sharp instrument
  contra-   opposite; against
  contraindication   a term often used in pharmacology to refer to a disease or condition that makes the use of certain drugs harmful to the patient
  crani/o   skull
  -crine   secrete
  cyan/o   blue
  cyanosis   abnormal bluish discoloration of the lips, skin and mucous membrane due to the lack of oxygen in the blood
  -cyte   cell
  erythrocyte   a red blood cell
  cyt/o   cell
  cytology   study of cells
  -cytosis   abnormal increase in the number of cells
  erythrocytosis   abnormal increase in the number of red blood cells
  dent/o   tooth
  -derm   skin
  dermat/o   skin
  di-   two
  diplo-   double
  diplopia   double vision
  -dipsia   thirst
  oligodipsia   diminished thirst
  dis-   away from; separation; apart
  dys-   pain; painful; difficult
  -ectomy   removal by cutting
  gastretomy   surgical removal of the stomach
  -emesis   vomiting
  hematemesis   vomiting of blood
  -emia   blood condition
  anemia   lack of red blood cells
  encephal/o   brain
  encephalitis   inflammation of the brain
  endo-   within; innermost
  endocarditis   inflammation of the inner lining of the heart
  epi-   upon; on; above
  epicardium   outermost layer of the heart
  erythr/o   red
  eu-   good
  euphoria   an exaggerated feeling of well-being
  ex-   out; outside
  gastr/o   stomach
  -genic   producing
  carcinogenic   agent that produces cancer
  geri-; geront/o   old age
  gerontology   the study of the problems particular to old age
  glyc/o   sugar
  glycolysis   breakdown of sugar
  -gram   record; writing; image
  -graph   instrument used for writing or recording
  -graphy   process of recording; producing images
  gynaec/o   female
  hemi-   half
  hemiplegia   paralysis of either the right or left half of the body
  hem/o; hemat/o   blood
  hepat/o   liver
  heter/o   another; different
  hom/o   same
  hydr/o   water
  hyper-   excessive; above; beyond
  hypo-   below; under; deficient; below normal
  hyster/o   uterus
  intra-   within
  intracellular   within the cell
  -ion   process
  -itis   inflammation
  cystitis   inflammation of the bladder
  labi/o   lips
  later/o   side
  lith/o   stone; calculus
   lithothripsy   the crushing of kidney stones or gallstones
  -lysis   breakdown; separation
  lys/o   dissolution; breakdown
  macro-   large
  medi/o   middle
  -megaly   abnormal enlargement
   cardiomegaly    enlarged heart
  -metry   measurement
   craniometry   process of measuring the skull bones
  mi/o   contraction; less
   miosis   abnormal contraction of the pupil
  muc/o   mucus
  myc/o   fungus
   mycosis   any disease caused by a fungal infection
  my/o; myos/o   muscle
  nephr/o    kidney
  oligo-   scanty; few
   oligodipsia   diminished thirst
  onc/o   tumour; selling; mass
  -opia   visual condition; vision
  -opsy   process of viewing
  -partum   delivery; birth
  path/o   disease
  -pathy   disease process
  -penia   deficient; decrease
  -peri   around
  -phagia   eat; swallow
  aphagia   not eating
  phag/o   to eat
  -phasia   speech
   dysphasia   defective speech
  -phil   love; affinity
  phleb/o   vein
  -phobia   fear
  -physis   to grow
  -plasty   surgical repair; surgical reconstruction
  -plegia   paralysis
  -pnea   breathing
  -poly   many
  post-   after
  pre-   before
  pro-   before; in front of
  -ptosis   drooping; sagging
   blepharoptosis   drooping of the eyelid due to weakness of eyelid muscle
  re-   Back
  -scopy   Process of visual examination using a scope
  semi-   Half
  -spasm   Sudden; involuntary muscle contraction
  -stenia   strength
  sub-   under; below
  sym-, syn-   together; with; joined; in connection with
  tachy-   Fast
  -thermy    Heat
  -tomy   Cutting; incision
  tri-   Three
  -trophy   nourishment
  -ule   small; little
  vas/o   Vessel

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