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Medical Terminology Terms

Updated on August 20, 2012

One of the most dreaded courses that nurses, medical assistants, PAs and physicians must face is medical terminology. Most students dread it because it is boring and requires tremendous memorization, however, if one follows a basic learning system and studies on a regular basis this can be a piece of cake.

Breaking the body systems down into groups and making flash cards that are reviewed daily will make your Medical Terminology class a lot smoother, and even all future medical related classes.

What is Medical Terminology?

Most medical words are derived from Greek and Latin languages and therefore may look and sound unusual at first. Once you have studied the basic meanings of word parts, you will be able to understand most of the medical terms you encounter, regardless of how big or complex they are.

Medical Terminology Meaning (Prefix)

  • ex, extra- away from, external

  • hemi- half

  • hyper-, supra, excessive, above

  • hypo-, sub-, infra- below, beneath

  • inter- between

  • iso- same, equal

  • mal- bad, inadequate

  • macro- large,

  • micro- small

  • multi- many

  • poly- much

  • neo- new

  • oligo- deficiency

  • para-, peri- beside, near

  • pre- before

  • post- after, following

  • quadri- four

  • re-, retro- behind, back

  • tachy- fast

  • tox- poisonous

  • tri- three

  • ultra- beyond

  • uni- one


-cyte.. cell

-derma.. skin

-dipsia.. thirst

-ectasis, dilation .. expansion

-ectomy excision..... surgical removal

-edema.... swelling

-emesis.... vomiting

-emia..... a condition of the blood

-esthesia..... sensation

-gen .......... genesis creating, promoting

-gram.......... record

-graph.. recording instrument

-graphy.. process of recording

-gravida.. pregnant woman

-ist .......specialist

-itis.. .........inflammation

-kinesia.......... kinesis movement

-lith............... some

-logist.............. specialist in the study of

-malacia............. softening

-megaly......... enlargement as in (acromegaly)

-meter............. instrument for measuring

-metry.............. measurement

-oid................... resemblling

-ole, -ule............. small

-oma....................... tumor

Integumentary System

  • epidermis-- top layer of the skin
  • dermis--- lies just beneath the epidermis
  • subcutaneous layer---contains fat tissue and is deeper than dermis and contains vessels
  • erythema---redness
  • edema---swelling

Cutane/o------pertaining to the skin

dermat/o------specialist in skin

cyt/o------study of cells

kerato/o------incision into the cornea

myc/o------ abnormal condition of fungus

necr/o------abnormal condition of dead tissue

onych/o------softening of the nail

exr/o------dry skin


cyan/o------abnormal condition of color (blue)

erythem/o------pertaining to red (color)

melan/o------black tumor

Xanth/o------yellow skin


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I was curious if you ever tguhhot of changing the structure of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 

      6 years ago from Arlington, TX

      More than I needed to know but well done as usual Skarlet.


    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Super info -- you listed some I'd not even thought about before! Appreciate this Hub immensely! Best/Sis

    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 

      6 years ago from US of A

      Skarlet, you make me feel like I'm back in college taking Biology! Am I glad I didn't have to deal with this, but your pointers for helping learn the terms look very sound. Good job.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg COA OSC 

      6 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Great hub, although I'd like to make a correction if I may. Kerat/o does not mean incision into the cornea, it simply means cornea.

      This is a great list, very well done. Voted up and awesome.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Skarlet....very useful/valuable info here. It wouldn't hurt everyone to brush up on medical terminology, if for nothing more than learning how to read reports of their own medical issues. The more we understand, the better we may be active in our own wellness. This is excellent. UP ++

    • Skarlet profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Thank you Mike,

      Yes, the methods of writing prescriptions and medical terminology is still evolving in effort to avoid confusion.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 

      6 years ago

      I suspect this was invented so every medical person is speaking and understanding the same language. There could be much misinterpretation depending on the person speaking when using words like "big," "large," etc. Much of that depends on the personal opinion of the person doing the talking. I don't think I just made much sense, but can honestly say I am glad I don't have to memorize that list.

      Interesting hub by the way.


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