Medical Terminology: Gastrointestinal Root Words

By Beverley Henderson, Jennifer Lee Dorsey

A lot of players work together in the gastrointestinal tract. The good news, with regard to medical terminology and word building, is that the list of prefixes and suffixes is a lot less complicated than those of other large systems. The prefixes and suffixes you find here will help you keep all the body parts, ailments, and procedures straight.

When in doubt, sound it out!

Prefix What It Means
Exo- Outside
Peri- Surrounding
Re- Back
Retro- Backward, back
Suffix What It Means
-ase Enzyme
-flux Flow
-ectomy Surgical removal, cutting out
-iasis Abnormal condition
-itis Inflammation
-lithiasis Calculus or stone
-lysis Destruction or breakdown
-pepsia Digestion
-prandial Meal
-orrhaphy Surgical fixation or suturing
-ostomy Creation of an artificial opening
-tresia Opening
-tripsy Crushing

Now, it’s time to find out what comes in between these word parts. Consider the combining forms and root words as you would the stomach — they break the word down into its most useful component. That root will, in turn, provide the nutritive content that gives the word its meaning.

Root Word What It Means
Abdomin/o Abdomen
An/o Anus
Appendic/o Appendix
Bucc/o Cheek (facial)
Cec/o Cecum
Celi/o Belly
Cheil/o Lips
Chol/e, bil/i Gall, bile
Cholecyst/o Gallbladder
Choledoch/o Common bile duct
Col/o, colon/o Colon
Dent/o, odont/o Teeth
Duoden/o Duodenum
Enter/o Small intestine
Esophag/o Esophagus
Gastr/o Stomach
Gingiv/o Gums
Gloss/o Tongue
Gluc/o, glyc/o Sugar
Hepat/o Liver
Ile/o Ileum
Jejun/o Jejunum
Labi/o Lips
Lapar/o Abdomen
Lingu/o, gloss/o Tongue
Lip/o Fat, lipids
Odont/o Teeth
Or/o Mouth, oral
Palat/o Palate
Pancreat/o Pancreas
Peritone/o Peritoneum
Pharyng/o Pharynx
Proct/o Anus, rectum
Pylor/o Pylorus
Rect/o Rectum
Sialaden/o Salivary gland
Sial/o Saliva
Sigmoid/o Sigmoid colon
Splen/o Spleen
Steat/o Fat
Stomat/o Mouth
Submaxill/o Lower jaw
Tonsill/o Tonsil
Uvul/o Uvula