Medical Terminology For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
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.

body systems
©By Vecton/

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.

  • Abdomin/o: Abdomen
  • Aden/o: Gland
  • Anter/o: Front
  • Arteri/o: Artery
  • Audi/o: Hearing
  • Bio: Life
  • Brachi/o: Arm
  • Bronch/i, bronch/o: Bronchus
  • Carcin/o: Cancer
  • Cardi/o: Heart
  • Col/o: Colon
  • Cyt/o: Cell
  • Derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o: Skin
  • Dors/i, dors/o: Back or posterior
  • Encephal/o: Brain
  • Gastr/o: Stomach
  • Gynec/o: Female
  • Hemat/o: Bl ood
  • Hist/o, histi/o: Tissue
  • Intestin/o: Intestine
  • Lapar/o: Abdomen, loin or flank
  • Lymph/o: Lymph vessels
  • My/o: Muscle
  • Neur/o: Nerve
  • Ocul/o: Eye
  • Ophthalm/o: Eyes
  • Optic/o, opt/o: Seeing, sight
  • Or/o: Mouth
  • Ot/o: Ear
  • Path/o: Disease
  • Pharmac/o: Drug
  • Pulmon/o: Lungs
  • Sept/o: Infection
  • Thorac/o: Chest/thorax
  • 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.

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.

This article can be found in the category: