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Medical Terminology On Line

Updated on January 7, 2010
Just imagine... this could be you, big words and all!
Just imagine... this could be you, big words and all!

Learn Medical Terminology On Line:

Learning medical terminology on line can be done.

When you enter any of the medical fields, not only will you have to learn a trunk load of valuable, practical information regarding your medical specialty, you will also need to learn another language, so to speak: the language of medical terminology.

When I first ventured into this strange new world of foreign vernacular, it wasn’t long until I realized that learning medical terminology in a classroom setting (at least for me) was a waste of valuable time. Don’t get me wrong. The subject matter is interesting—learning the various medical terms as they relate to anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc.—it is the method of learning that leans toward a self-study format. After all, when all the chips are in, learning medical terminology boils down to pure, unadulterated memory work; and a gaggle of it at that. So yes! You can take an on line medical terminology class and learn effectively!

Now where am I going you might say? In the future, I’ll be taking my adjunct medical terminology courses online. To me, medical terminology training on line simply makes sense for a number of reasons: ease of schedule, working and studying on your own time, and all at a fraction of the cost of the classroom setting.

Now for starters, allow me to give a brief definition of medical terminology; what it is; who uses it; and who needs to know it.

Medical terminology is a method of identifying and communicating the immense bank of knowledge known in the medical community. Med term (as it is commonly known) requires learning a variety of terms: prefixes, suffixes, combining vowels, and abbreviations, that are used among medical personnel (at ALL levels), medical insurers, lawyers, health equipment suppliers, pharmaceutical personnel, medical transcriptionists, and any other individual involved with any aspect of the medical community.

In short, medical terminology is a language that is well worth learning if you plan to enter any of the above-mentioned professions. And learning medical terminology on line is a great place to start.

It's all GREEK to me!
It's all GREEK to me!
And LATIN too!
And LATIN too!

Medical Terminology Training: The Basics

The majority of medical terminology is derived from one of four sources:

  • Greek and Latin words: Terms derived from Greek and Latin words; i.e., carditis
  • Eponyms: Terms derived from the name of the person who first identified it; i.e., Parkinson Disease.
  • Acronyms: Terms derived from the first letter of the words in the phrase; i.e., CAT, or PET Scan.
  • Modern Language: Terms derived from modern advances in technology; i.e., nuclear medicine.

As a general rule, the majority of medical terminology terms will be built from one of the above examples. When you decide to take a medical terminology on line course, take note of where the term was derived. In addition to being extracurricular and fun, it advances your chances at trivial pursuit.

A fairly typical screenshot from an on line medical terminology course.
A fairly typical screenshot from an on line medical terminology course.

The majority of medical terminology terms are built (not derived) with four word parts:

  • Word roots: This is the core meaning of the term; more than one word root can be used in each term.
  • Suffixes: Attached to the end of a term to give meaning.
  • Prefixes: Word parts attached before a term to give meaning.
  • Combining Vowels: Word part, usually an o, or i, used to ease pronunciation.

Word root examples:

  • Arthr- (meaning joint)
  • Onych- (meaning nail)
  • Dermat- (meaning skin)

Suffix examples:

  • -itis (meaning inflammation)
  • -oma (meaning tumor)
  • -ic, -al (meaning pertaining to)

Prefix examples:

  • Poly- (meaning many)
  • Intra- (meaning within)
  • Sub- (meaning below)

Combining vowel examples:

  • Oste/O/arthritis: O is the combining vowel
  • Arth/O/pathy: O is the combining vowel

And that's about it as far as the basics of medical terminology go. The amount of word roots, prefixes, suffixes, and combining vowels is huge. For example, the primer medical terminology class I took had over 3,000 terms introduced over a 16-week period! That's a bunch!

The good news is that when you decide to go into the medical field, you can learn the basics and then specialize. Odds are, you'll become so familiar with the terms in your specialty they will be a natural way of speech.

What is Your Next Step?


After you've decided to go into the medical field, or perhaps you just want to have a better understanding of medical terminology, my suggestion is to look for a reputable medical terminology class that you can take on line. Trust me. I had two friends who opted to take their medical terminology training over the Internet and they said it was great!

You can set your own schedule, the cost is not as high as it would be at an institution of higher learning, and you can learn at your own pace. Just remember, however, learning medical terminology on line will take discipline and a lot of memory cells. The reward, though, is well worth it!


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    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Nicole S.

      Yes, there is a lot to know. This hub doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the depth of med term. I do hope, though, it provides a knowledge on how to move forward. Thanks again!

    • Nicole S profile image

      Nicole S Hanson 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, I really learned a lot here! Thanks for sharing your knowledge, this was a really interesting hub!

    • dr_munir2010 profile image

      dr_munir2010 6 years ago from Pakistan

      nice man very informative topic

    • 4FoodSafety profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Fontana, WI

      Great Hub - I knew just a handful but without the background and the exposure to Latin. Excellent resource. Very well presented and explained. Thank you so much!

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 7 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thanks you all for such nice comments. I hope I can recall all that I learned last semester; after all, 2000 terms was a LOT! Thanks for dropping by!

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 7 years ago from Central Texas

      Very informative Hub, Rob - I briefly worked in the coding field and it's amazing how fast the language can become second nature - however, as you say, it never stops and just goes on and on. You condensed it to the bottom line and I wish I'd had your input before I struggled through all that other stuff! Thanks for the info!

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 7 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thanks Robie! Yes, it is a LOT of Greek as well as a bit overwhelming at first. Once you get the hang of it, though, the terms become easier to recall. Thanks for reading!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      hmmmm it's still all Greek to me, but an interesting read with much good info. Thanks and Happy New Year:-)

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Very good and valuable advice, especially in this economy when jobs are so scarce.