Most medical terms are derived from Latin or Greek and contain two or more components.
Medical terms are better understood when you divide them into their component parts.
To understand a medical term, break it down into its component parts - root(s), prefix, suffix and combining vowels. The basic definition of a word part remains the same when combined with various components.
Here are some tips on understanding medical terminology -
TIP #1 - Most medical terms contain two or more of these parts:
Root(s) - the word's essential meaning; a term may have two roots
Prefix - added to the beginning of a root word to make it more specific
Suffix - added to the end of the root word for specificity
Linking or combining vowels - placed in between word parts to help with pronunciation
Myocarditis - myo/card/itis
Myo = muscle (root), card = heart (root) and itis = inflammation (suffix) or inflammation of the heart muscle. There are two roots, muscle and heart.
Percutaneous - per/cutan/eous
Per = through (prefix), cutan = skin (root) and -eous = pertaining to (suffix); meaning something through the skin.
Suprascapular - supra/scapular
Supra = above (prefix), scapula = shoulder blade (root), and -r = relative to (suffix); relative to the area above the shoulder blade.
TIP #2 - The definitions of root words, prefixes and suffixes remain the same when they are combined to produce different terms.
Here are three examples:
A. The root word for skin is derm. Its combining forms are derma-, dermat-, dermot-, ;and dermo- . Look at some medical terms utilizing this root.
Dermatitis - Dermat (root) and -itis (suffix) inflammation; condition of inflamed skin.
Dermatology - Dermat (root) and -ology (suffix) branch of knowledge or science; medical specialty of diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases.
Pyoderma - Pyo (root) combining form of the word for pus and derma; skin infection involving pus formation.
B. Card is the root for heart.
Cardiovascular - means pertaining to the heart and vessels.
Cardiocentesis - surgical puncture of the heart.
Cardiology - as in Example A above, the definition here is the study of the heart and its functions.
C. The root for blood is hem.
Hemorrhage - the suffix -rrhage means bursting forth; hemorrhage is the escape of blood from tissue.
Hemostasis - adding the suffix -stasis (arrest in a process) gives us the process by which bleeding is stopped.
TIP # 3 - Similarly, prefixes and suffixes are defined the same when combined with various roots. They are never used alone, but further define root words.
Here are some common prefixes in medical terminology:
Auto- = self; for example, autoimmune or autogenous
Anti- = against; antisepsis or antibodies
De- = reverse, remove; dehydrate, defibrillate
Dys- = abnormal, difficult; dyspnea, dysuria
Contra- = opposed; for example, contraception, contraindication
Hyper- = above, excessive; hypertensive, hyperglycemia
Suffixes attach to the end of roots and describe certain actions, such as these surgical suffixes -
-ectomy = surgical removal; thyroidectomy
-plasty = surgical repair; angioplast
-stomy = creation of a new opening; colonostomy
or these suffixes for procedures or equipment -
-graph = recording instrument; electrocardiograph
-scope = instrument to examine visually; endoscope
-therapy = course of treatment; chemotherapy
Anesthesiology (an-es-thEs'-E-al-a-jE)-medical specialty dealing with relief of pain and administration of medicine to relax muscles and render patient unconscious during medical procedures.
Angiology (an-jE-'äl-a-jE)-study of blood vessels and lymph vessels
Bacteriology (bak-"tir-E-'äl-a-jE)-scientific study of bacteria
Biology (bI-'äl-a-jE) - science of living organisms and vital processes
Cardiology (kärd-E-'äl-a-jE)-medical specialty dealing with the heart, its anatomy, normal functions and disorders
Cytology (sI-'täl-a-jE)-science of the structure, function, multiplication, pathology and life history of cells
Cytopathology (sI-'to-pa-'thäl-a-jE)-study of changes at the cellular level caused by disease; cellular pathology
Dermatology (der-ma-'täl-a-jE)-medical specialty concerning the characteristics - anatomic, physiologic and pathologic - and functions of skin; also, the diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders
Embryology (em-brE-'al-a-jE)-study of development during the embryonic stage, fertilization to birth
Endocrinology (en-d0-kri-`näl-a-jE)-study of anatomic, physiologic, and pathologic characteristics of the endocrine system of glands; diagnosis and treatment of endocrine disorders
Enzymology (en-zI-'mäl-a-jE)-study of enzymes and enzymatic action
Epidemiology (ep-i-dE-mE-a-'läj-E)-science concerned with incidence and risk of disease & injury in populations for the purpose of control or prevention
Ethology (E-'thäl-a-jE)-scientific study of animal behavior, particularly in their native habitat
Etiology (Et-E-'äl-a-jE )-study or theory of the causes and origins of diseases
Gastroenterology (ga-strO-ent-a-'räl-a-jE)-study of diseases affecting the GI tract including stomach, intestines, gall bladder and bile duct
Gerontology (ger-on-`tal-O-jE)-study of all aspects of the aging process and associated problems
Gynecology (gIn-a-'käl-a-jE)-study of diseases of female reproductive tract
Helminthology (hel-min-'thäl-a-jE)-scientific study of parasitic worms
Hematology (hE-ma-'täl-a-jE)-medical science of blood and blood-forming tissues
Herpetology (her-pE-'täl-a-jE)-branch of zoology specializing in reptiles and amphibians
Histology (his-'täl-a-jE)-branch of anatomy dealing with the minute structure, composition and function of tissues
Immunology (im-mU-'näl-a-jE)-branch of medical science studying phenomena of the body's immune system
Microbiology (mI-krO-bI-'äl-a-jE)-science of microscopic forms of life including algae, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses
Morphology (mor-'fäl-a-jE)-science of the forms and structures of organisms; physical shape and size of a specimen, plant or animal
Nephrology (ni-'fräl-a-jE)-study of the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the kidney
Neurology (nU-'ral-a-jE) branch of medical science dealing with the nervous system, including the brain & its disorders
Odontology (O-dän-'täl-a-jE)-science of the teeth and surrounding structures of the oral cavity
Oncology (än-'käl-a-jE)-medical science pertaining to tumors and malignancies
Ophthalmology (op-thal-'mäl-a-jE)-medical science dealing with anatomy, physiology and pathology of the eye
Osteology (äs-tE-'äl-a-jE)-branch of medicine dealing with development and diseases of bone tissue
Otolaryngology (ah-tO-lar-an-`ga-lä-jE)-study of the medical and surgical treatment of the head and neck, including ears, nose and throat
Otology (ah-`tol-a-jE)-branch of medical science dealing with the treatment of diseases and disorders of the ear
Parasitology (par-a-sa-'täl-a-jE)-scientific study of parasites
Pathology (pa-`thal-a-jE)-study of the characteristics, causes and effects of disease, especially the structural and functional changes produced by it
Pharmacology (fär-ma-'kal-a-jE)-science of drugs and their action on the body
Physiology (fiz-E-'äl-a-jE)-field of science concerning the functions and characteristics of humans and other living organisms
Physiopathology (fiz-E-O-pa-'thäl-a-jE)-study of functions in disease, or as modified by disease
Radiology (rA-dE-`al-a-jE)-medical science dealing with radiant energy and radioactive substances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease
Rheumatology (rü-ma-'täl-a-jE)-study of disorders characterized by inflammation, degeneration or metabolic derangement of connective tissue and related structures of the body.
Theriogenology (thir-E-O-ja-'näl-a-jE)-branch of veterinary medicine dealing with reproduction in animals
Toxicology (toks-a-'käl-a-jE)-scientific study of poisons, their actions, detection and treatment of conditions produced by them
Urology (ur-äl-a-jE)-medical specialty concerning with the anatomy, physiology, disorders and care of the urinary tract in both men and women, and of the male genital organs
Virology (vI-'räl-a-jE)-branch of microbiology concerned with viruses and viral diseases
Zoology (zO-'äl-a-jE)-the biology of animals, other than humans
Note: pronunciations from MEDLINEplus access to Merriam -Webster Medical Dictionary. U.S. National Library of Health and National Institutes of Health. Site viewed on 8/4/2003.
|Aging, process and associated problems||Gerontology|
|Inflammatory diseases, arthritis & connective tissue disorders||Rheumatology|
|Bile duct, see Gastrointestinal tract|
|and blood-forming tissues||Hematology|
|vessels and lymph vessels||Angiology|
|Bones, development & diseases of||Osteology|
|Cells - changes in, caused by disease||Cytopathology|
|structure, function, multiplication, pathology and life history||Cytology|
|incidence and risk||Epidemiology|
|causes and origins||Etiology|
|essential nature & effects||Pathology|
|Drugs, action on the body||Pharmacology|
|Embryos, development of from fertilization to birth||Embryology|
|Endocrine system - glands & hormones||Endocrinology|
|Enzymes and their action||Enzymology|
|Gall bladder, see Gastrointestinal tract|
|Gastrointestinal tract, stomach, intestines, gall bladder, bile duct||Gastroenterology|
|Genital organs, male||Urology|
|Head & neck region including ears, nose and throat||Otolaryngology|
|Heart - anatomy, normal functions & disorders||Cardiology|
|Hormones, see Endocrine system|
|Intestines, see Gastrointestinal tract|
|Kidneys, study of||Nephrology|
|Nervous system, including the brain||Neurology|
|forms & structures||Morphology|
|functions & characteristics||Physiology|
|Pain, relief of during illness or medical procedures||Anesthesiology|
|Radiant energy, see Radioactive substances|
|Radioactive substances in diagnosis & treatment of disease||Radiology|
|Reproductive system, female||Gynecology|
|characteristics - anatomic, physiologic and pathologic;|
|diagnosis & treatment of disorders||Dermatology|
|Stomach, see Gastrointestinal tract|
|Teeth, including surrounding tissues of the oral cavity||Odontology|
|Tissues, structure, composition, function||Histology|
|Tumors, including malignancies||Oncology|
|Urinary tract, male & female||Urology|
|Viruses and viral diseases||Virology|