Biology Workbook For Dummies
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Biology is the study of life, from tiny bacteria to giant redwood trees to human beings. Understanding biology begins with knowing some of the basics, such as eukaryotic cell structure and common Latin and Greek roots that will help you decipher the sometimes-tough vocabulary.

Common Latin and Greek roots in biology vocabulary

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

Biology basics: important components of eukaryotic cells

For biology students, knowing the components of eukaryotic cells and how they work is fundamental to understanding how organisms function. This table provides an overview of the most important eukaryotic cell structures and functions and how to recognize them.

Structure Function How to Recognize
Cell wall Rigid boundary around some cells Outermost boundary in plant, algal, fungal, and bacterial
cells. Cells with a cell wall are usually very regular in shape,
like they’ve been cut with a cookie cutter.
Chloroplasts Make food, transferring energy from sun to food molecules Organelles with two membranes and internal stacks of membranes
called grana, which look like layers of stripes.
Cytoskeleton Reinforces cell structures; helps move materials around
Looks like cables running through the cell.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Rough ER has ribosomes, makes proteins; smooth ER makes
Folded sheets of membrane that ripple off of the nucleus of
cells. The rough ER has ribosomes stuck to it, so has a speckled
appearance. Smooth ER may look tubular, like coral, and has an
unspeckled surface.
Golgi Receives molecules from ER and modifies, tags, and ships them
Looks like a stack of pancakes surrounded by little membrane
Lysosomes Break down worn-out cell parts Small spheres within the cell; may contain partially broken
down materials.
Mitochondria Transfer energy from food to useful form for cells (ATP) Organelles with two membranes. The inner membrane is crinkled
into folds called cristae.
Nucleus Houses the genetic material Largest organelle, surrounded by a double membrane that has
little holes in it. May contain dark spots called
Plasma membrane Selective boundary of cell Outermost boundary in animal cells. Cells that have only a
plasma membrane for their boundary may be variable in shape.
Ribosomes Where proteins are made Look like tiny dots in the cell. May be loose in the cytoplasm
or attached to the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Rene Fester Kratz, PhD, is a biology instructor at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington.

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