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"Unlocking the Meaning Behind Medical Terminology: A Guide to Understanding Prefixes in Healthcare"

Medical terminology can often seem like a foreign language, with words that are seemingly unpronounceable and difficult to understand. But did you know that many of these terms can be broken down into smaller, more manageable components? That's where medical prefixes come in. These linguistic elements provide essential information about the meaning of a medical term and can help you to understand the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of a wide range of medical conditions. In this guide, we'll take a closer look at some of the most commonly used medical prefixes, demystifying their meanings and helping you to make sense of the complex terminology used in healthcare. Whether you're a student studying medicine, or simply someone who wants to have a better understanding of their health, this guide is for you.





COMMON PREFIXES

PREFIX

MEANING

EXAMPLE

A-, An-

Without; Lacking

Anemia

Andr/o-

Male

Androgen

Anti-

Against

Anticholinergic drugs

Auto-

Self

Autocrine

Bio-

Life

Biology

Chem/o-

Chemistry

Chemotherapy

Contra-

Against

Contraception

Cyt/o-

Cell

Cytokine

Dis-

Separation; Taking apart

Dissection

Eu-

Good; Well

Eupnea

Fibr/o-

Fiber

Fibrosis

Gluco-, Glyco-

Glucose; Sugar

Glycogen

Gyn/o-, Gynec-

Female

Gynecology

Hydr/o-

Water

Hydrocephalus

Idio-

Self; One’s own

Idiopathic

Lyso-, Lys-

Break down; Destruction; Dissolving

Lysosome

Mal-

Bad; Abnormal

Malignant

Myc/o-

Fungus

Mycetoma

Necr/o-

Death

Necrosis

Neo-

New

Neonate

Oxy-

Sharp; Acute; Oxygen

Oxytocin

Pan-, Pant/o-

All or everywhere

Pancytopenia

Pharmaco-

Drug; Medicine

Pharmacist

Re-

Again; Backward

Rejuvenation

Somat/o-, Somatico-

Body; Bodily

Somatic cell

Dys-

Difficult; Abnormal

Dyspnea

BODY PART PREFIXES

PREFIX

MEANING

EXAMPLE

​Acous/o-

​Hearing

​Acoustic meatus

​Aden/o-

​Gland

​Adenoid

​Adip/o

​Fat

​Adipocyte

​Adren/o-

​Gland

​Adrenal cortex

​Angi/o-

​Blood vessel

​Angioplasty

​Arteri/o

​Artery

​Arteriole

​Arthr/o-

​Joint

​Arthroplasty

​Bucc/o-

​Cheek

​Buccal cavity

​Bronch/i-

​Bronchus

​Bronchioles

​Burs/o-

​Bursa

​Bursitis

​Carcin/o-

​Cancer

​Basal cell carcinoma

​Cardi/o-

​Heart

​Cardiology

​Cephal/o-

​Head

​Cephalic flexure

​Chol-

​Bile

Cholelithiasis

​Chondri-

​Cartilage

​Chrondrosarcoma

​Coron-

​Heart

​Cardiology

​Cost-

Rib

​Costal cartilage

​Crani/o-

​Brane

​Cranium

​Cutane-

​Skin

​Cutaneous

​Cyst/o-, Cysti-

Bladder or sac

​Cystoscopy

​Derm-, Dermat/o-

​Skin

​Dermatologist

​Duoden/o-

​Duodenum

​Duodenitis

​Gastr-

​Stomach

​Gastrectomy

​Gloss-

​Tongue

​Glossectomy

​Hem-, Hema-, Hemat/o-

​Blood

​Hematopoiesis

​Hepat/o-, Hepatico-

​Liver

​Hepatic portal system

​Hist/o-, Histio-

​Tissue

​Histology

​Hyster/o-

​Uterus

​Hysterectomy

​Ileo-

​Ileum

​Ileostomy

​Ichi/o-

​Ischium

​Ischial tuberosity

​Kerat/o-

​Corena (eye or skin)

​Keratin

​Lacrim/o-

Tear

​Lacrimal fluid


​Lact/o-, Lacti-

​Milk

​Lactose

​Laryng/o-

​Larynx

​Laryngitis

​Lingu/o-

​Tongue

​Lingual Tonsil

​Lip/o-

​Fat

​Lipolysis

​Lymph/o-

​Lymp

​Lymphocyte

​Mamm-, Mast/o-

​Breast

​Mammary glands

​Mening/o-

​Meninges

​Meningitis

​Muscul/o-

​Muscle

​Musculoskeletal

​My/o-

​Muscle

​Myocardium

​Myel/o

​Spinal cord or bone marrow

​Myelin

​Nephr/o-

​Kidney

​Nephron

​Neur/i-, Neur/o-

​Nerve

​Neuron

​Oculo-

​Eye

​Oculomotor nerve

​Onco-

​Tumor; Bulk; Volume

​Oncogene

​Onych/o-

​Fingernail; Toenail

​Onychodystrophy

​Oo-

​Egg; Ovary

​Oocyte

​Oophor/o-

​Ovary

​Oophorectomy

​Op-, Opt-

​Vision

​Optic nerve

​Opthalm/o-

​Eye

​Opthalmic artery

​Orchid/o-, Orchio-

​Testis

​Orchidectomy

​Orth/o-

​Straight; Normal; Correct

​Orthostatic

​Osseo-

​Bony

​Osseous tissue

​Ossi-

​Bone

​Ossicles

​Ost-, Oste/o-

​Bone

​Osteoporosis

​Ot/o-

​Ear

​Otolaryngologist

​Ovar/i-, Ovario-, Ovo-, Ovi-

​Ovary

​Ovarian follicle

​Phalang-

​Phalanx

​Phalanges

​Pharyng/o

​Pharynx; Throat

​Pharyngeal tonsil

​Phleb/o-

​Vein

​Phlebotomist

​Phren/i-, Phreno-, Phrenico-

​Diaphragm

​Phrenic nerve

​Pleur-, Pleur/a-, Pleur/o-

​Rib, Pleura

​Pleural cavity

​Pneum/a-, Pneumat/o-

​Air; Lung

​Pneumonia

​Proct/o-

​Anus; Rectum

​Procto


​Prostat-

​Prostate

​Prostatectomy

​Pseudo-

​False

​Pseudostratified

Psych/o-, Psyche-

​Mind

​Psychiatrist

​Radio-

​Radiation; Radius

​Radioisotopes

​Ren/o-

​Kidney

Renal cortex

​Rhin/o-

​Nose

​Rhinoscope

​Salping/o-

​Tube

​Salpingo-oophorectomy

​Sarco-

​Muscular; Flesh-like

​Sarcomere

​Schiz/o-

​Split; Cleft

​Schizophrenia

​Sclera-, Sclero-

​Hardness

​Sclerosis

​Sigmoid/o-

​Sigmoid colon

​Sigmoidoscopy

​Sperma-, spermo-, spermato-

Sperm

​Spermatocyte

​Splen/o-

​Spleen

​Splenomegaly

​Sten/o-

​Narrowed; Blocked

​Stenosis

​Stern-

​Sternum

​Sternoclavicular joint

​Stom/a-, Stomat/o-

​Mouth

​Stomatitis

​Thorac/o-, Thoracico-

​Chest

​Thoracic cavity

​Thromb/o-

​Blood clot

​Thrombolytic

​Thyr/o-

​Thyroid gland

​Thyroiditis

​Trache/o-

​Trachea

​Trachealis

​Tympan/o-

​Eardrum

​Tympanic membrane

​Ur/o-

​Urine

​Urologist

​Varic/o-

​Duct; Blood vessel

​Varicose vein

​Vasculo-

​Blood vessel

​Vasculitis

​Ven/o-

​Vein

Vena cava

​Vertbr-

​Vertebra; Spine

​Vertebral column

COLOR PREFIXES

​Chlor/o-

​Green

​Chlorophyll

​Chrom-, Chromato-

​Color

​Chromosome

​Cyano-

​Blue

​Cyanosis

Erythr/o-

​Red

​Erythrocyte

​Leuk/o-

​White

​Leukocyte

​Melan/o-

​Black

​Melanin

PHYSICAL PROPERTY and PREFIXES

​Cry/o-

​Cold

​Cryotherapy

​Elect-

​Electrical activity

​Electrocardiogram

​Kin/o-, Kine-, Kinesi/o-

​Movement

​Kinetic energy

​Kyphy/o-

​Humped

​Kyphosis

​Rhabd/o-

​Rod-shaped; Sriated

​Rhabdomyosarcoma

​Phot/o-

​Light

​Photoreceptor

​Reticul/o-

​Net

​Reticulocytes

​Scoli/o-

​Twisted

​Scoliosis

​Therm/o-

​Heat

Thermotherapy

DIRECTION and POSITION PREFIXES

​Ab-, Abs-

​Away from

​Abductor

​Ad-

​Towards

​Adductor

​Ante-

​Before; Forward

​Antenatal

​Circum-

​Around

​Circumcision

​Cycl-

​Circle; Cycle

​Cyclic neutropenia

​De-

​Away from ; Ending

​Dehydration

​Dia-

​Across; Through

​Diagnosis

​Ect/o-, Exo-

​Outer; Outside

​Exocrine gland

​End/o-, Ent-, Enter/o

​Within; Inner

​Endocrine gland

​Epi-

​Upon; Outside of

​Epidermis

​Ex-, Extra-

​Beyond

​Expiration

​Infra-

​Beneath; Below

​Infratemporal fossa

​Intra-

​Within

​Intracellular fluid

​Meso-

​Middle

​Mesoderm

​Meta-

​Beyond; Change

​Metabolism

​Para-

​Alongside; Abnormal

​Parathyroid glands

​Path/o-

​Disease

​Pathologist

​Peri-

​Around

​Pericardium

​Post-

​Behind; After

​Postpartum

​Pre-

​Before; In front

​Precancerous

​Retro-

​Backward; Behind

​Retropreitoneum

​Sub-

​Under

​Subcutaneous layer

​Super-

​Above

​Superior

​Supra-

​Above; Upon

​Supraglottis

​Sy-, Syl-, Sym-, Syn-, Sys-

​Together

​Syndrome

​Trans-

​Across; Through

​Transdermal

QUANTITY PREFIXES

​BI-

​Two

​Biceps

​Brady-

​Slow

​Bradycardia

​Diplo-

​Double

​Diploid

​Hemi-

​Half

​Hemihypertrophy

​Hetero-

​Other; Different

Heterogeneous

​Homo-

​Same

​Homozygous genotype

​Hyper-

​Above; Beyond; Excessive

​Hypertension

​Hypo-

​Under; Deficient

​Hypotension

​Iso-

​Equal; Like

​Isointense

​Macro-

​Large; Long; Big

​Macrophage

​Mic-, Micro-

​Small

​Microglia

​Mon-, Mono-

One

​Monocyte

​Olig/o-

​Few; Little

​Oliguria

​Poly-

​Many; Excessive

​Polyuria

​Quadri-

​Four

​Quadriceps

​Semi-

​Half

​Semilunar valves

​Tachy-

​Fast

​Tachycardia

​Tetra-

​Four

​Tetralogy of Fallot

​Tri-

​Three

​Triceps

​Uni-

​One

​Unicellular

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