Medical Terminology Suffixes and Prefixes


Medical terminology represents the language of the health care industry. Made up of mostly Greek and Latin word parts, many of the same terms used in early days with Aristotle and Hippocrates exist today. Much like a foreign language, medical terminology requires study, review and memorization to fully understand it. However, the task is not as daunting as it may seem. Many medical terms break down into word parts, such as prefixes and suffixes, for ease of learning and understanding.

Understanding Word Parts

  • Although medical terms exist that require memorization of the full word and definition, smaller word parts make up a majority of the terms. Medical terminology word parts include word roots, or the base of the word, and prefixes (letter groups in front of a word) and suffixes (letter groups at the end of the word). Each word part represents a specific definition. When placed together, word parts create a medical term, with each word part working to define a medical term. For example, the medical term subhepatic breaks down into the word parts sub/hepat/ic. Sub- is the prefix meaning "below or under." The word root hepat- means "liver" and the suffix -ic means "pertaining to." Therefore, subhepatic means "pertaining to below the liver," as defined by breaking down the word parts.


  • Prefixes exist at the beginning of medical terms and modify the meaning of the word root. However, many medical terms do not have a prefix. Do not automatically assume that prefixes make up word parts appearing at the beginning of a medical term. Medical terms without prefixes start with the word root.

Prefix Examples

  • Common prefixes for medical terminology include intra-, meaning "within," and sub-, meaning "under." The medical term intravenous breaks down into three different word parts: intra / ven / ous. In this case, the prefix intra- means "within", the word root ven- means "vein," and the suffix -ous means "pertaining to." Therefore, intravenous means "pertaining to within the vein."


  • Suffixes appear at the end of a medical term and, like prefixes, modify the meaning of the word. Most medical terms include a suffix.

Suffix Examples

  • Common suffixes include -itis, meaning "inflammation," -ic, meaning "pertaining to" and -pathy, meaning "disease." Sometimes, there are multiple suffixes that have the same meaning. For example, both -ic and -ous mean "pertaining to." The medical terminology education process teaches when to use different suffixes using both memorization and an understanding of word parts.

Combining Vowels

  • Medical terminology also includes a word part called the "combining vowel." Combining vowels, most often "o," help ease pronunciation between a word root and the prefix or suffix. For example, in the term osteopathy, oste- is the word root, o is the combining vowel, and -pathy is the suffix.

Related Searches


  • Photo Credit capsules image by Keith Frith from
Promoted By Zergnet


You May Also Like

  • Word Structure in Medical Terminology

    Medical terminology is used to describe and classify anatomical structures, conditions, diagnosis, instruments, medications, procedures, processes, protocols, symptoms and treatments within the...

  • The History of Medical Terminology

    Medical terminology has an extensive and rich history in Latin and Greek languages. When the Romans conquered Greece, around 400, the knowledge...

  • Medical Terms & Definitions

    There are thousands of medical terms and definitions but unless you are a medical, nursing or other health sciences student, you don't...

  • How to Memorize Medical Terms

    Medical transcription is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. According to the Department of Labor, the field will...

  • How to Understand Medical Terminology

    Medical terminology is derived from Latin and Greek and serves as a universal language in the health care arena. This nomenclature describes...

  • How to Find Out What Year My YZ80 Yamaha Is

    Yamaha has produced many years' worth of the YZ80 off-road motorcycle. However, the style didn't change much, so it's difficult to tell...

  • How to Combine Word Forms in Medical Terminology

    As the health care industry grows, so will the demand for education to prepare for this field. If you are seeking employment...

  • What Are Prefixes, Suffixes and Roots?

    All words are structured starting with a root, and some are accompanied by prefixes and suffixes. It is far easier to understand...

  • Tricks to Learning Medical Terminology

    The Hippocratic oath that doctors take before beginning their practices dates back to ancient Greece. Like the Hippocratic oath, many medical terms...

  • Medical Terminology Learning Games

    Health professionals and medical students have a common language known as "medical terminology." Those who use it know how important it is...

  • Medical Terminology Exercises

    Medical terminology is the words or language used by health care professionals to identify anatomical structures, diagnoses, instruments, procedures, protocols and medications....

Related Searches

Check It Out

This Is the Beauty Routine of a Yelp Sales Manager

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!