Good Techniques to Learn Medical Terminology

Students in many medical disciplines, like medical assisting or nursing, receive training in medical terminology. Learning medical terminology involves learning the many different body systems, the word parts that go along with those systems and the rules by which those words can be broken down and put back together to form different medical terms. It also involves knowing common abbreviations and the proper terminology for everyday words and body parts.

  1. Learn the Rules

    • Just like the English language, most medical terms are made up of a root word, combined with a prefix and/or suffix. In the common word "redo", re- is a prefix meaning again and -do is the root word meaning to perform. Put together, redo simply means to perform again. Medical terminology rules are the same. The medical word "cystitis" may seem complicated but not when you consider that -itis is a suffix that means inflammation, and cyst- is a root word that means bladder; therefore, that once daunting word simply means inflamed (or swollen) bladder. In her textbook "Comprehensive Medical Terminology," Betty Davis Jones writes, "It will be critical for you to learn the word parts, and the rules for combining the word parts to create words, in order to be successful in medical terminology."

    Use Note Cards

    • There are too many medical terms to remember. A person can, however, memorize plenty of word parts. Write one word part on the front of a note card. An example is the word part "dermat-". On the back of the note card, write the meaning. Dermat- means skin. Review the fronts of the note cards until every time you see the word part you know the answer immediately without checking the other side for the answer. Once you know that dermat- means skin, it won't be long before you know that dermatitis means inflammation of the skin and dermatology means study of the skin. Each word part learned can potentially unlock dozens of new medical terms. Use a new note card for each medical term. The same technique can be used to study body parts (i.e., the medical term for "fingers" is phalanges) or abbreviations (in medicine, the letter "K" represents potassium). You can do this alone or with a partner.

    Find Interactive Websites

    • The Internet is full of free, helpful tools. Using a site such as Study Stack (see Resources) is also a good technique for learning medical terminology. Studystack is an online version of using note cards. Although broken down by body system, study stack isn't tailored to the specific needs of tomorrow's exam, but it is good general information for keeping abreast of medical terms.

    Use Textbook Software

    • Computer software makes learning medical terminology easier.
      Computer software makes learning medical terminology easier.

      Almost all medical textbooks come with a CD-ROM. Every teacher doesn't make using the disk a requirement because all students don't have computers. The information on the CD, though, is specific to the text from which it was attached. Test questions are often taken from the same or similar software, so using the CD-ROM will help you learn medical terminology and improve your grades, even if it is not mandatory.

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  • "Comprehensive Medical Terminology"; Betty Davis Jones; 2003


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images Jupiterimages/ Images

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