Common Prefixes and Suffixes in Medical Terminology

By Beverley Henderson, Jennifer Lee Dorsey

If you are just getting started learning medical terminology, prefixes and suffixes are a good launching point. Yes, there are lots more prefixes for medical terminology than you see listed here. But, to get you started, here is a quick look at some of the most common prefixes that play a huge role in both common, everyday English and medical terminology.

Prefix What It Means
A-, an- Lack of, without, not
Ante- Before, in front of, or forward
Anti- Opposing or against
Bi- Double, two, twice, both
Co-, con-, com- Together or with
De- Down, or from
Di- Twice or two
Extra-, extro- Beyond, outside of, or outward
Hemi-, semi- Half, half of
Hyper- Above, excessive, beyond
Hyp-, hypo- Below, beneath, deficient
Infra- Below or beneath
Inter- Between
Intra- Within, inside
Intro- Into, or within
Macro- Large
Micro-, micr- Tiny, small
Post- After, or following, behind
Pre-, pro- In front of, before, preceding
Retro- Behind, backward
Semi- Half
Trans- Through or across
Tri- Three
Ultra- Excessive, beyond

The suffix, always at the end of a word, usually indicates a procedure, a condition, or a disease. Whereas the prefix gives you a clue into what to expect in a word’s meaning, the suffix pulls no punches and tells you what is happening with a specific body part or system. And, usually, it either entails what is wrong medically or indicates the procedure used to diagnose or fix it.

The scope of suffix meanings is extremely wide. Like prefixes, many of these have similar meanings in plain old, everyday English that you hear on the street. For example, the suffix -meter simply indicates an instrument used to measure something, just as it does in other fields of study. Geography, a term feared by many fifth graders the world over, ends with -graphy and means the process of recording.

Suffix What It Means
-ac, -ic, -al, -ous, -tic Related to, or pertaining to
-ate, -ize Subject to, use
-ent, -er, -ist Person, agent
-genic Produced by
-gram A written record
-graph Instrument used to record
-graphy Process of recording
-ism Condition or theory
-itis Inflammation
-ologist One who studies, specialist
-ology Study of, process of study
-oma Tumor
-pathy Disease, disease process
-phobia Morbid fear of or intolerance
-scope Instrument used to visually examine
-scopy Process of visual examination