Common Latin and Greek Roots in Biology Vocabulary

By Rene Fester Kratz

Part of Biology Workbook For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Students in introductory biology classes typically have to learn more new vocabulary words than students taking a foreign language! The good news is that many science vocabulary words use the same Greek and Latin roots. When you know these roots, you can figure out what a word means, even if you’ve never heard it before. This table shows you many roots to help you decipher words you hear in biology class.

Greek or Latin Root Meaning Examples
A-, An- Not, absent Abiotic: without life
Anoxygenic: without oxygen
Ab-, Abs- Away from Abscission: separation of leaves from tree
Allo- Another Allosteric: another binding site
Aqua- Water Aqueous: watery
Bi- Two Bilayer: double layered
Bio- Life Biology: the study of life
-cide Kill Bacteriocidal: kills bacteria
Cyt Cell Cytoplasm: the fluid inside a cell
Di- Two Disaccharide: a carbohydrate made of two simple sugars
Dis- Apart Disjoin: separate
Endo- Inside Endocytosis: a process that brings things into a cell
Epi- Upon, over Epidermis: the uppermost layer of tissue covering an
Eu- True Eukaryotes have a true nucleus
Ex- Out Exocytosis: a process that puts things out of cells
Geno- Give birth, beget Genetics: the study of heredity
Hetero- Mixed, unlike Heterozygous: a cell that has two different versions of a
Homo- Same Homozygous: a cell that has two identical versions of a
Hyper- Above Hypertonic: has a greater concentration of solutes
Hypo- Below Hypotonic: has a lower concentration of solutes
Inter- Between Interphase: the cellular phase between cell divisions
Iso- Same Isotonic: has same concentration of solutes
Locus Place A locus on a chromosome is the place where a gene is
Macro- Big Macrophage: a large phagocyte
-meter Measure Centimeter: a measurement that’s 1/100 of a meter
Micro- Small Microbiology: the study of living things too small to see with
the naked eye
Mono- One Monosaccharide: a single simple sugar
Olig- Few Oligosaccharide: a short chain of sugars
Ped-, Pod Foot Pseudopod: a “false foot” or projection of an amoeba
Phago- Eat Phagocytosis: a process where a white blood cell engulfs and
destroys bacteria and viruses
-phil Love Hydrophilic: mixes well with water
-phobia Fear Hydrophobic: doesn’t mix with water
Poly- Many Polypeptide: a chain of many amino acids
Pro- Before Prokaryotes: cells that evolved before nucleated cells
Stom- Mouth Stomates: openings in the surfaces of leaves
Zoo- Animal Zoology: the study of animals
Zygo- Join Zygote: a cell formed from the joining of sperm and egg