Medical Terminology For Dummies
Grasping medical terminology starts with knowing the body’s systems, recognizing medical root words commonly used, understanding the Greek influence in medical terminology, and learning those pesky hard-to-spell medical words.
Your Body’s Systems
Your body is made up of many systems, each having their own vital parts that work together. This list represents your bodily systems and the specific parts that comprise them:
Skeletal: Bones, axial skeleton, appendicular skeleton, and joints
Muscular: Muscles and tendons
Integumentary: Skin, hair, nails, and glands in skin
Sensory: Eyes, ears, nose, skin receptors, and mouth
Cardiovascular: Heart, blood vessels, and blood
Lymphatic: Tonsils, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, and lymph fluid
Respiratory: Nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs
Gastrointestinal: Mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder
Endocrine: Hormones, pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, and gonads
Nervous: Brain, spinal cord, ganglia, nerves, and sensory organs
Urinary: Kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra
Reproductive: Ovaries, uterine tubes, uterus, and vagina in females; testes, ducts, penis, urethra, and prostate in males
Common Medical Root Words
The root of a word is its main part and core meaning. These common medical root words give you a general idea of what you’re dealing with or specify a body part.
Bronch/i, bronch/o: Bronchus
Derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o: Skin
Dors/i, dors/o: Back or posterior
Hemat/o: Bl ood
Hist/o, histi/o: Tissue
Lapar/o: Abdomen, loin or flank
Lymph/o: Lymph vessels
Optic/o, opt/o: Seeing, sight
Thyr/o: Thyroid gland
Trachel/o: Neck or necklike
Trich/o: Hair or hairlike
Ventr/i, ventr/o: Front of body
Viscer/o: Viscera (internal organs)
Greek Tidbits in Medical Terms
Most common medical terms used today are derived from Latin or Greek. After all, the Greeks were the founders of modern medicine. Examples of medical terminology used today based on the Greek language are
The word semantics is derived from the Greek semantikos, meaning significant.
Coccyx comes from the Greek word for cuckoo -- it resembles a cuckoo’s beak.
Remember: myo (muscle) is not to be confused with myelo (bone marrow).
Diaphoresis comes from the Greek dia meaning through and phoreo meaning I carry. Translated, it means the carrying through of perspiration.
Glaucoma: Greek glaukos means blue-grey, and oma means a condition. In glaucoma, gray color replaces the black pupil.
Both Latin and Greek play a role in the roots of the word for heart, cardium. This word stems from the Greek word kardia.
Adenoid comes from the Greek aden, meaning gland, and cidos, meaning like. The term was once used for the prostate gland.
Pancreas is so named because of its fleshy appearance. Greek pan means all, and krea means flesh.
Endocrine: Take endo and add it to the Greek krinein, which means to separate.
Paraplegia: The Greek para means beside, and plegia means paralysis.
The Greek word pyelos means tub-shaped vessel, which describes the shape of the kidney.
Venereal is derived from Venus, the goddess of love. It was thought in ancient times to be one of the misfortunes of love.
Medical Terms Commonly Misspelled
Don’t get discouraged studying medical terminology. A large group of medical terms are notorious for being difficult to spell. These medical terms are commonly misspelled:
Abscess, adolescence, alimentation, alopecia, Alzheimer, analyze, aneurysm, anorexia, arrhythmia, ascites, asphyxia, asystole, auscultation, callus, catheter, Caucasian, chickenpox, cirrhosis, curettage, decubitus, diabetes mellitus, diaphoresis, diaphragm, dilatation, diphtheria, eczema, effusion, elicit, epididymitis, fascia, flaccid, gallbladder, gangrene, gauge, gonorrhea, hemoptysis, hemorrhoid, humerus, hygiene, icterus, inoculate, intraocular, intussusception, ischemia, melanin, menstruation, oophorectomy, ophthalmology, orthopnea, pacemaker, palliative, palpate, palpitation, perineum, periosteum, peritoneum, peroneal, prosthesis, prostate, protocol, pruritus, rhythm, sagittal, sedentary, sequela, sieve, spleen, splenectomy, supersede, syncope, syphilis, tonsils, tonsillectomy, tricuspid, ventricle, vertical, and xiphoid.