Medical Terminology: Discussion, Morphology, Components, Words and Examples

All branches of science or human knowledge need to create their own terminology adjusted to their communication and expression needs.

Medical terminology often uses words created using prefixes and suffixes in Latin and ancient Greek. In medicine, its meanings and its etymology are informed by the language of origin.

The prefixes and suffixes, mainly in Greek, but also in Latin, have a dro-o-.

The medical roots are generally in agreement with the language, the Greek prefixes go with Greek suffixes and the Latin prefixes with Latin suffixes. Although it is technically considered acceptable to create hybrid words, it is very preferable not to mix different lingual roots.

Prefix : A prefix is ​​placed at the beginning of a word to modify or change its meaning. Pre means “before”. The prefixes can also indicate a location, number or time.

Root : central part of a word.

Suffix : the final part of a word that modifies the meaning of the word. Example: homeless Root = home and the suffix is ​​’without’. It can also refer to a condition, disease, disorder or procedure.

Examples of well-accepted medical words that mix lingual roots are neonatology and quadriplegia .

Medical terminology is a language used to accurately describe the human body, including its components, processes, conditions that affect it and the procedures performed in it.

Medical terminology is used in the field of medicine.

Notable aspects of medical terminology include the use of Greek and Latin terms and regular morphology, with the same suffixes and prefixes used quite consistently for a particular meaning.

This regular morphology means that once you learn a reasonable number of morphemes, it is easy to understand very precise terms assembled from these morphemes. Much of the medical language is anatomical terminology, which refers to itself with the names of various parts of the body.

Discussion of Medical Terminology

By forming or understanding a word root, you need a basic understanding of the terms and the language of origin. The study of the origin of words is called etymology.

For example, if a word was formed to indicate a condition of the kidneys, there are two main roots: one from Greek (νεφρός nephr [os]) and another from Latin (ren [es]).

Kidney failure would be a condition of the kidneys, and nephritis is also a condition, or inflammation, of the kidneys. The suffix -itis means inflammation and the whole word conveys the meaning of kidney inflammation.

To continue using these terms, other combinations will be presented for the purposes of examples: The term “adrenal is a combination of the prefix supra- (meaning” above “), and the root of the word for the kidney, and the complete word means “Located above the kidneys”.

The word “nephrologist” combines the root of the term kidney with the medical suffix with the resulting meaning of “someone who studies the kidneys.”

In medical terminology, the word root is not usually the only word in a sentence. This is different from most of the roots of words in modern standard English.

The root of the medical word is taken from a different source language, so it will not make sense as an independent term in a sentence in English. A suffix or prefix must be added to make a medical term usable.

For example, the term for “concerning the heart” is “cardiac”, from the Greek kardia. If a person suffers from a heart-related disease, the statement “The patient suffered a kardia event” would not make sense.

However, with the addition of a -ac suffix, the statement would be modified to read: “The patient suffered a cardiac event,” which is an acceptable use of medical terminology.

The process is different in standard English because the roots of the word are able to be alone in a sentence. For example, the word eye is a root word in English that can be used without modification in a sentence.

An additional challenge for the student of medical terminology is that the formation of the plural of a word must be done using the rules of the plural form proper that is used in the language of origin.

This is more difficult than in English, where adding -so-is the rule. Both Greek and Latin have different rules that will apply when the plural form of the root word is formed. Often, such details can be found using a medical dictionary.

When more than one part of the body is used in the formation of a medical term, the roots of the individual words are joined by the use of the combination form with the letter -o- to indicate the union of various parts of the body.

For example, if there is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, this would be written as gastroenteritis. In this example, -o- means the union of two body parts.


Suffixes are attached to the end of a word root to add meaning, such as condition, disease process or procedure.

In the process of creating medical terminology, certain language rules apply. These rules are part of the mechanics of language called linguistics. Then, when a term is developed, some logical process is applied.

The root of the word is developed to include a vocal sound after the term to add a smoothing action to the sound of the word when a suffix is ​​applied. The result is the formation of a new term with an attached vowel (word root + vowel) called a combination form.

In English, the most common vowel used in the formation of the combined form is the letter -o-, added to the root word.

The prefixes usually do not require more modifications to be added to a word root because the prefix usually ends in a vowel or vowel sound, although in some cases they can be assimilated slightly and an intrarchange can change to syn- to sym-.

Suffixes are classified as (1) that need the combination form, or (2) that do not need the combination form, since they start with a vowel.

Decoding the medical term is an important process. Once you gain experience in the process of training and decoding medical terminology, the process becomes easier. One approach involves breaking the word down by first evaluating the meaning of the suffix, then the prefix and finally the root word.

This will generally produce a good result for the experienced health professional. In case of doubt, the result must be verified by a medical terminology dictionary. The process of learning any new language, such as medical terminology, is facilitated by learning the basic rules.

A quick reference online is a dictionary search engine. This allows one to enter a medical term in a dialog box and start a search. There are also numerous online medical dictionaries to choose from.

Once a term is located, the answer will be subdivided into several basic formats, which include general use, medicine, law, business and others.

The use of a medical dictionary or Internet search engine is a great help to know the exact meaning of a medical term. However, if the basic concepts of word construction are understood, many words are understandable to the student of medical terminology.

Components of Medical Words

The first part of deciphering a medical term is to know the different components of a term.

Root : the essential meaning of the word.

Combine shape : a root with a vowel associated with it, most commonly the letter O. This vowel is known as the combined vowel because it combines the root with the rest of the term. When writing the combination form itself, a slash (/) is used to separate the stem and the combination of the vowel.

Whenever the combined vowel links the parts, a word can have multiple roots.

Suffix : the end of the term that gives part of the meaning of the word.

Prefix : appears at the beginning of some words to modify its meaning.

Example 1 : CARDIOLOGY means study of the heart. Cardi / o is the combined form (cardi + o), and -logia is the suffix.

Example 2 : POLYNEUROPATHY means disease of many nerves. Poly – is the prefix, neur / o is the combination form (neur + o), and -patia is the suffix.

Understand the rules that govern the use of the vowel combination.

If a suffix begins with a vowel, release the combined vowel:

Example 1 : NEURAL means belonging to the nerves. neur / o is the combination form and – al is the suffix. As the suffix begins with a vowel, the combined vowel is discarded.

When using multiple roots, keep the vowels combined even if the second root begins with a vowel.

Example 2 : GASTROENTEROLOGIST means a doctor who specializes in the stomach and intestines. gastr / o is the first form of combination, enter / o is the second and -logo is the suffix. Note that both combined vowels are present.

To get the meaning of a word, read it from the suffix to the beginning and then through. In other words, read the suffix first, then the prefix if there is one, and finally the root.

Example 1 : HEMATOLOGY, – logy (study of) + hemat / o (blood) = study of the blood.

Example 2 : HEPATITIS, – itis (inflammation of) + hepat / o (liver) = inflammation of the liver.

Example 3 : INTRAVENOUS, – ous (belonging to) + intra- (inside) + ven / o (vein) = belonging to inside a vein.

Example 4 : Tachycardia, – ia (condition of) + tachycardia (rapid) + cardi / o (heart) = condition of a rapid heartbeat.

Most medical terms are compound words formed by root words that are combined with prefixes (at the beginning of a word) and suffixes (at the end of a word).

Therefore, medical terms that at first may seem very complex can be divided into their component parts to give you a basic idea of ​​their meaning.

For example, the word neuroblastoma.

  • Neuro – means nerve.
  • Blast – is related to immature cells.
  • Oma – means tumor.

Therefore, by breaking down a complex word, we can see that neuroblastoma literally means a tumor made up of immature nerve cells.

Another type of tumor: osteogenic sarcoma.

  • Osteo – means bone.
  • Genetic – means create / cause.

Therefore, we can see that this is a bone-forming tumor.

All medical terms have a root word. They can also have a prefix, a suffix or both a prefix and a suffix.

The prefixes have a “o” drop-down, which acts to connect the prefix to the root words that start with a consonant. As a general rule, the “o” is eliminated when it is connected to a root word that begins with a vowel (a, e, i, i, u).

Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins and how their form and meaning have changed over time. Most medical words derive from ancient Greek and Latin.

Words of Medical Terminologies

The medical terminology was developed mainly from Greek and Latin words, so many terms can be deciphered through the understanding of the meanings of various roots and affixes.

Roots that denote number or size

Some examples of root words, prefixes and roots that denote number or size:

  • Bi – dos.
  • Dipl / o – two, double.
  • Hemi – mitad.
  • Hyper – about or more than usual.
  • Hiccup – low or less than usual.
  • Iso – same, same.
  • Macro – large.
  • Megal / or – enlargement.
  • Micro – small.
  • Mono – one.
  • Multiple – many.
  • Nulli – ninguno.
  • Poly – many.
  • Semi-half, partial.
  • Three – three.
  • Uni – one.

Roots that denote color

  • Chlor / o – green.
  • Cyan / o – blue.
  • Erythr/o – rojo.
  • Nice / o – blank.
  • Melan / o – black.
  • Xanth / o – yellow.

Many times you will come across a medical term that contains a prefix that describes a number.

In medicine, you will often find terms that describe where a procedure or condition occurs in the body, there is also a series of positional and directional medical terms that are not suffixes or prefixes, but are independent words.

Practice the correct pronunciation. In the world of medicine, correct pronunciation is not only important to maintain your professionalism, but also helps to avoid misinterpretations and confusion caused by different pronunciations.

There are many words that have unique pronunciations. You may discover that the way you read a word in your mind is not how it is supposed to sound.

Do not get confused with terms and parts of similar words. Some parts of words and terms are similar in both spelling and pronunciation, but of opposite meaning. It is important to differentiate between these to avoid a diagnosis or treatment plan that is deceptive and possibly harmful in your career.