Medical Terminology For Dummies
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Just as in a math problem, you can add up the parts of a medical term and get one coherent answer, one complete meaning. Here’s one example to get you started: Break the word gastroenterologist into root words and suffixes:

gastroenterologist = gastro + entero + logist

Look at the suffix first: -logist says this is a person, the physician. Now go back to the beginning. Gastro is the root word for stomach, and entero is the root word for intestines. Broken down, then, a gastroenterologist is a physician who studies and treats diseases of the stomach and intestines, performing a medical service known as gastroenterology.

With two root words, the meaning of both root words must be researched to know the true meaning of the term.

Let’s take a trip through the body to find some not so easy terms. Using the rules of dissection, you should be able decipher some brainteasers.

  • Ana/tomy: -tomy (“process of cutting”) + ana (“apart”) = study of body structure (to study, one must cut up or dissect)

  • Arthro/-ophthalmo/pathy: -pathy (“condition or disease”) + arthro (“joint”) + ophthalmo (“eye”) = disease affecting joints and eyes

  • Auto/opsy: -opsy (“to view”) + auto (“self”) = examination of body after death (yes, it’s a stretch)

  • Bio/logy: -logy (“the study of”) + bio (“life”) = study of living things

  • Cerebro/malacia: -malacia (“softening”) + cerebro (“brain”) = softening of the brain

  • Cerebro/vascul/ar: -ar (“pertaining to”) + cerebro (“brain”) + vasculo (“vessel”) = pertaining to the brain and blood vessels

  • Choledocho/litho/tripsy: -tripsy (“crushing”) + choledocho (“common bile duct of the gallbladder”) + litho (“stone”) = crushing of stones in the common bile duct of the gallbladder

  • Chondro/malacia: -malacia (“softening”) + chondro (“cartilage”) = softening of cartilage

  • Chondr/oma: -oma (“mass or tumor”) + chondro (“cartilage”) = tumor of cartilage

  • Crani/otomy: -otomy (“cutting into”) + cranio (“skull”) = cutting into the skull

  • Dermat/itis: -itis (“inflammation”) + dermato (“skin”) = inflammation of the skin

  • Dermato/plasty: -plasty (“surgical reconstruction”) + dermato (“skin”) = surgical reconstruction of the skin

  • Encephalo/megaly: -megaly (“enlargement”) + encephalo (“brain”) = enlargement of the brain

  • Encephalo/pathy: -pathy (“disease”) + encephalo (“brain”) = brain disease

  • Glyc/emia: -emia (“blood condition”) + glyco (“sugar”) = sugar in the blood

    Then, by adding prefixes to glycemia, you get

    Hyper/glyc/emia: -hyper (“excessive”) = excessive sugar in blood

    Hypo/glyc/emia: -hypo (“insufficient”) = insufficient or low amount of sugar in the blood

  • Gyneco/mastia: -mastia (“breast”) + gyneco (“woman/female”) = excessive development of male breast tissue

  • Hemat/emesis: -emesis (“vomiting”) + hemato (“blood”) = vomiting of blood

  • Hemo/lysis: -lysis (“breakdown or destruction”) + hemo (“blood”) = breakdown of blood

  • Hyper/cholesterol/emia: -emia (“blood condition”) + hyper (“excessive or above normal”) + cholesterol = excessive amount of cholesterol in blood

  • Hyper/emesis: -emesis (“vomiting”) + hyper (“excessive”) = excessive vomiting

  • Hyper/hidr/osis: -osis (“abnormal condition”) + hyper (“excessive or above normal”) + hidro (“sweat”) = excessive secretion of sweat or excessive sweating

  • Hystero/salpingo/gram: -gram (“a record”) + hystero (“uterus”) + salpingo (“fallopian tube”) = x-ray record of the uterus and fallopian tubes

  • Inter/vertebral: -vertebral (“pertaining to vertebrae or a vertebra”) + inter (“between”) = between vertebrae or a vertebra

  • Intra/cranial: -cranial (“pertaining to the skull”) + intra (“within”) = pertaining to within the skull

  • Jejuno/ile/ostomy: -ostomy (“artificial surgical opening”) + jejuno (“jejunum”) + ileo (“ileum”) = surgical opening or new connection between the jejunum and ileum

  • Laryngo/tracheo/bronch/itis: -itis (“inflammation”) + laryngo (“larynx”) + trachea (“trachea”) + broncho (“bronchus”) = inflammation of the larynx, trachea, and bronchus (croup)

  • Leio/myo/sarcoma: -sarcoma (“malignant tumor”) + leio (“smooth”) + myo (“muscle”) = tumor of smooth muscle

  • Leuko/penia: -penia (“lack of or deficiency”) + leuko (“white/white blood cells”) = deficient amount of white blood cells

  • Micro/dactyly: micro (“small”) + dactyly (“fingers or toes”) = pertaining to small fingers and/or toes

  • Nephro/pexy: -pexy (“surgical fixation”) + nephro (“kidney”) = surgical fixation of a kidney

  • Neur/itis: -itis (“inflammation”) + neuro (“nerve”) = inflammation of a nerve

  • Oligo/sperm/ia: -ia “(condition”) + sperm (“spermatozoa”) + olio (“too little, too few”) = a subnormal concentration or number of spermatozoa in seminal fluid

  • Osteo/arthro/pathy: -pathy (condition or disease) + osteo (“bone”) + arthro (“joint”) = condition or disease affecting bones and joints

  • Oto/rhino/laryngo/logist: -logist (“person who studies”) + oto (“ear”) + rhino (“nose”) + laryngo (“larynx/throat”) = doctor specialized in otorhinolaryngology = ear, nose, and throat

  • Para/nasal: -nasal (“pertaining to nose”) + para (“beside or near”) = beside or near the nose

  • Peri/neur/itis: -itis (“inflammation”) + peri (“around”) + neuro (“nerve”) = inflammation around a nerve

  • Pneumo/conio/sis: -sis (“condition”) + conio (“dust”) + pneumo (“lung”) = lung condition caused by inhalation of dust particles

  • Presby/opia: -opia (“vision”) + presby (“old age”) = vision impaired due to aging

  • Presby/cusis: -cusis (“hearing”) + presby (“old age”) = diminished hearing due to aging

  • Respiro/meter: -meter (“to measure”) + respiro (“to breathe”) = instrument to measure extent of respiratory movements

  • Rhabdo/myo/sarcoma: -oma (“tumor”) + rhabdo (“rod shaped”) + myo (“muscle”) + sarc (“flesh/tissue”) = malignant tumor of muscle tissue made up of rod-shaped cells

  • Rhino/kyphosis: -kyphosis (“humped condition” + rhino (“nose”) = a humpback condition of the nose

  • Sialo/lith/otomy: - otomy (“surgical incision into”) + sialo (“salivary gland”) + lith (“stone or calculus”) = incision into a salivary gland or duct to remove a stone

  • Somn/ambul/ism: -ism (“condition”) + somn (“sleep”) + ambulo (“to walk”) = condition of sleep walking

  • Thoraco/myo/dynia: -dynia (“pain”) + thoraco (“chest/thorax”) + myo (“muscle”) = pain in the muscles of the chest wall

  • Thrombo/phleb/itis: -itis (“inflammation”) + thrombo (“clot”) + phlebo (“vein”) = inflammation of a vein with clot formation

  • Torti/collis: -is (“condition”) + torti (“twisted”) + collum (“neck”) = condition in which the neck is twisted to one side

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Beverley Henderson, CMT-R, HRT, has more than 40 years of experience in medical terminology and transcription as both an educator and manager. Jennifer L. Dorsey, PhD, has coauthored, revised, and ghostwritten books in the medical, business, and personal growth categories for more than 20 years.

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