Medical Terminology: Integumentary Root Words

By Beverley Henderson, Jennifer Lee Dorsey

Once you know the specific parts of the integumentary system, it’s time to put your medical terminology expertise into practice by tracking down the meaning of root words and checking out their useful applications. The roots are essential medical terminology knowledge, because once you master these roots (good ol’ Greek and Latin ones, that is), you can break down any hair/skin/nail/gland-related word and discover its meaning.

Root Word What It Means
Aden/o Gland
Adip/o Fat
Albin/o White
Aut/o Self
Bi/o Life
Blephar/o Eyelid
Carcin/o Carcinoma (cancer)
Cutane/o Skin
Cry/o Cold
Cyan/o Blue
Derm/o, Derm/a, Dermat/o Skin
Diaphor/o Profuse sweating
Erythem/o Red
Hidr/o Sweat
Histi/o Tissue
Kerat/o Hard, horny
Leuk/o White
Lip/o, Lipid/o Fat
Melan/o Black
Myc/o Fungus
Necr/o Death (cell or body)
Onych/o Nail
Papill/o Nipplelike
Pil/o Hair
Py/o Pus
Rhytid/o Wrinkle
Sclera/o Hardening
Seb/o Sebum (fat)
Squam/o Scale
Steat/o Fat, sebum
Trich/o Hair
Xer/o Dry
Xanth/o Yellow

Herpes comes from the Greek word herpo, meaning “to creep along.” It is descriptive of the course and type of skin lesion as with herpes zoster (shingles).

Here is a list of prefixes and suffixes pertaining to your hair, nails, skin, and glands.

Prefix What It Means
Epi- On, over, upon
Para- Beside, beyond, around
Per Through
Sub- Under, below
Suffix What It Means
-itis Inflammation
-malacia Softening
-opsy View of, viewing
-orrhea Flow, excessive discharge
-phagia Eating or swallowing
-plasty Surgical repair