Medical terms – explaining the terminology

Filed in: Diseases & Conditions.

Know the medical terms.

The most important of the medical building blocks … Prefixes

The language of medicine can sometimes seem silly, a neat and generally unintelligible jargon. In fact, one of the barriers that sometimes separates doctors from the rest of the world is language. Doctors, doctors, nurses and other health professionals use jargon with special words. And these words, whether by design or not, are often incomprehensible to the rest of us.

Medical terms are often compound words. They are combined from other words that serve as building blocks of medical language. The deception of medicine can often be understood if we can recognize and guess the meaning of the individual building blocks. Takes the floorpericardial. "It is the sum of its parts, from the Greek:" peri- ", around +" kardia ", heart = around the heart.

Among the key building blocks in the medical language (and in all languages) are the prefixes, the parts that we put in front of the words. The prefix examples that appear in the MedicineNet Medical Dictionary ( include:

a- and an-: the only letter "a-" is widely used in the health sciences. Indicates "no, no, unless". So, for example, we have alexia (unread), afagia (without eating), aphonia (without voice, without voice). The prefix "a-" comes from the Greek meaning "no". It becomes "an-" before a vowel, as in anemia (without blood), anotia (without ear) and anoxia (without oxygen). ab- and ad-: "Ab-" means "from, away from, off". In medicine, abduction is the movement of a limb away from the midline of the body. "Ad-" is just the opposite of "ab-". It means "towards" and "in the direction of" (among other things). Adduction is the movement of a limb towards the midline of the body. alb-: "Albus" is the white color in Latin. The term "albino" was first applied by the Portuguese to the "white" people they encountered in West Africa. Those "white" people probably had partial or complete albinism, a hereditary lack of pigment in their skin, hair and eyes. colpo-: from the Greek "kolpos" which means a fold, crevice or hollow. It is used in reference to the vagina. Words that include colpos include colposcopy (examination of the vagina and cervix with a colposcope). entero-: From the Greek "enteron", intestine. Related to the root "integers" which means "inside". What went into the intestine was inside the body. Enteritis is an inflammation of the intestine. kerato-: Confusing since you can refer to the cornea (as in keratitis, inflammation of the cornea) or in the "warm" tissue (as in keratosis, thickening of the skin). litho-: Prefix meaning stone ("lithos" in Greek = stone). A lithotomy is an operation to extract a stone. Lithotripsy is to crush a stone. The calculation can be in the gallbladder or urinary tract. melan-: From the Greek "melas", black. Terms containing melan include melanin (dark pigment), melanocytes (cells that produce melanin) and melanoma (a tumor that arises in the melanocytes). neo-: New. From the Greek "neos", new, young, fresh, recent. There is the neonatal Intensive care unit (newborns). A neoplasm is a new growth, a tumor. oligo-: Means only a few, scarce. In oligodactyly (very few fingers), oligohydramnios (very little amniotic fluid) and oligospermia (very few sperm, osteo-: bone. osteoarthritis, osteopetrosis (stone bone) osteoporosis, etc. oto-: The ear. In otitis (inflammation of the ear), otorhinolaryngologist (ENT doctor), otoscope (a device to look in the ear), etc. duck-: from the Greek "pathos" means "suffering or disease". In pathogen (pathogen), pathogenesis (development of the disease), pathology (study of the disease), etc. phlebo-: Medium vein. In phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), the phlebotomist (a person who draws blood from the veins) and phlebotomy (a venipuncture). pneumo-: related to breathing, breathing, lungs or air. In pneumonia, pneumothoxax, etc. In French, a "pneu" is a tire (because it contains air). poli-: Many. Poly-appears in many medical terms, including polyarteritis, polycystic, polyp, etc. toc-: From the Greek word "tokos", it refers to labor or delivery. A tocolytic agent inhibits uterine contractions and decreases or stops delivery. xero-: From the Greek "xeros", dry or dry. If the doctor says you have xeroderma, you only have dry skin.

Read Also  14 signs and symptoms of kidney disease that you should not ignore!

These and other prefixes are explained along with many other medical terms at


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