Medical Terminology List: Root Word, Prefix, Suffix Meanings and Course Book Dictionary — EZmed (2023)

Medical terminology made easy! List of common medical and nursing root words and dictionary meanings, along with examples, tables, and tricks to remember it all!

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Medical Terminology: Definition

Medical terminology is the language used in healthcare to describe anatomy, structures, conditions, diagnoses, procedures, treatments, and much more.

Learning medical words can be challenging at first….until now!

This post will help simplify all of the medical terminology courses, books, quizzes, dictionaries, and glossaries that are out there.

Medical and nursing terms typically use a combination of prefixes, root words, and suffixes to define the meaning.

We discussed medical prefixes and abbreviations in previous posts, and now we’re going to focus on common root words in this post.

Make sure to check out the list of other medical terminology lectures below!

Medical Abbreviations MADE EASY!

Medical Prefixes MADE EASY!

Medical Root Words MADE EASY! - Part I - Currently Viewing

Medical Root Words MADE EASY! - Part II

Medical Root Words MADE EASY! - Part III

Medical Suffixes MADE EASY!

Prefixes, Root Words, and Suffixes

Before we dive into common root words, let’s briefly recap the main word elements of a medical term.

You might remember from the previous post on prefixes that most medical words have a beginning, middle, and an end.

The beginning is the prefix.

The middle is the root.

The end is the suffix.

Prefix = Descriptive

The prefix is typically the descriptive part of the medical term, and it forms the beginning of the word.

The prefix describes characteristics such as a location, direction, number, quantity, amount, size, or color.

Root = Subject

The root provides the subject of the medical term.

It is the core meaning of the word and often pertains to a body part or system.

The root forms the middle of the word when a prefix is present.

If there is no prefix, then the root will form the first part of the word.

Suffix = Meaning

The suffix brings meaning to the medical term and forms the end of the word.

The suffix might indicate a disease, disorder, condition, procedure, process, specialty, test, or status.

List of Common Root Words I

As mentioned above, medical roots are the subject of the word and often pertain to a body part or system.

Let’s review 4 groups of common medical roots below.

**The parentheses below each term contain simple tricks and examples to help you remember the root word.

**Most of the roots listed below end in “O” for simplicity of pronunciation. This is called the combining form.

Be aware that a different vowel other than “O” may follow the root word.

The vowel that follows the root word is known as the combining vowel, and it connects the root to another root or a suffix.

Abdomino = Abdomen

(Abdominal Muscles = Muscles of the anterior abdomen)

Bonus Trick: “Abdomino” and “abdomen” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Arterio = Artery

(Arteriosclerosis = thickening or hardening of the walls of the arteries)

Bonus Trick: “Arterio” and “artery” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Brachio = Arm

(Brachial Pulse = Pulse located on the medial side of the upper arm)

Bronch = Bronchus

(Bronchitis = Inflammation of the bronchi, usually caused by a virus)

Bonus Trick: “Bronch” and “bronchus” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Carcino = Cancer

(Carcinogen = Substance capable of causing cancer)

Cardio = Heart

(Cardiovascular = Relates to the heart and blood vessels)

(Cardiomyopathy = Chronic disease of the heart muscle)

Colo = Colon

(Colonoscopy = Procedure performed to examine the colon)

Bonus Trick: “Colo” and “colon” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Cyto = Cell

(Cytotoxic = Toxic to living cells)

Derm/Dermato = Skin

(Dermatologist = Medical practitioner who specializes in treating skin conditions)

Encephalo = Brain

(Encephalitis = Inflammation of the brain)

Bonus Tip: “-itis” is a common suffix meaning inflammation. More on that in the suffix lecture!

(Video) Medical Terminology MADE EASY: Root Words [Nursing, Students, Coding]

List of Common Root Words II

Let’s continue with the 2nd group of common roots.

Gastro = Stomach

(Gastritis = Inflammation of the lining of the stomach)

Intestino = Intestine

(Intestinal Obstruction = Partial or complete blockage of the intestines)

Bonus Trick: “Intestino” and “intestine” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Myo = Muscle

(Myocardium = Muscular tissue of the heart)

Neuro = Nerve

(Video) Medical Terminology: Root Words MADE EASY [Nursing, Students, Coding Classes]

(Neuron = Nerve cell, a specialized cell that transmits nerve impulses)

Oculo/Ophthalmo = Eye

(Oculomotor = Refers to the movement of the eye)

(Ophthalmologist = Specialist who treats conditions related to the eye)

Oto = Ear

(Otoscope = Instrument used to examine the ear)

Pulmo = Lung

(Pulmonologist = Specialist who treats conditions related to the lungs)

Thoraco = Chest/Thorax

(Thoracotomy = Surgical incision into the chest wall)

Thyro = Thyroid Gland

(Thyrotoxicosis = Condition in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the body)

Bonus Trick: “Thyro” and “thyroid” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Viscero = Viscera (Internal Organs)

Visceroceptors = Group of receptors located in the visceral organs)

Bonus Trick: “Viscero” and “viscera” sound similar making it easy to remember.

List of Common Root Words III

Let’s move on to the 3rd group of common roots.

Histo/Histio = Tissue

(Histology = Study of the microscopic structures of tissues)

Hepato = Liver

(Hepatomegaly = Abnormal enlargement of the liver)

Nephro = Kidney

(Nephrolithiasis = Kidney stones)

Onco = Tumor/Mass

(Oncogene = Gene that can potentially transform a cell into a tumor cell)

(Oncology = Study and treatment of tumors)

Osteo = Bone

(Osteophyte = Bone spurs/outgrowths, associated with degeneration of joint cartilage)

Cranio = Skull

(Craniotomy = Surgical opening into the skull)

Adipo = Fat/Fatty Tissue

(Adipose Tissue = Connective tissue consisting of lipid-rich fat cells called adipocytes)

Adreno = Adrenal Gland

(Adrenocortical = Outer layer of the adrenal gland)

Bonus Trick: “Adreno” and “adrenal” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Arthro/Articulo = Joint

(Arthroscopy = Surgical procedure involving visualization of the inside of a joint)

Cephalo = Head

(Cephalocaudal = Proceeding or occurring in the direction from head to tail)

(Video) Medical and Nursing Terminology MADE EASY: Prefixes [Flashcard Tables]

List of Common Root Words IV

Let’s wrap this up with one final group of common roots.

Pneumo = Lung

(Pneumonia = Disease marked by inflammation of lung tissue, usually from infection)

Reminder: “Pulmo” also refers to the lung.

Cerebello = Cerebellum

(Cerebellopontine Angle/Recess = Space between the cerebellum and pons)

Bonus Trick: “Cerebello” and “cerebellum” sound similar.

Cerebro = Cerebrum

(Cerebrovascular = relates to the cerebrum of the brain and its blood vessels)

(Cerebrovascular Accident = CVA = Stroke)

Bonus Trick: “Cerebro” and “cerebrum” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Cysto = Urinary Bladder

(Cystoscopy = Procedure using a scope to look inside the bladder)

Duodeno = Duodenum

(Duodenography = Radiographic visualization of the duodenum with a contrast dye)

Bonus Trick: “Duodeno” and “duodenum” sound similar.

Reminder: The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine.

Glosso = Tongue

(Macroglossia = Abnormal enlargement of the tongue)

**All of the examples so far have had the root as the first part of the word, as the focus of this post is medical roots.

However, macroglossia is a good example of a medical term that uses a prefix, which in this case is macro, and then has a root that follows.

Laryngo = Larynx

(Laryngospasm = Spasmodic closure of the larynx)

Lympho = Lymph

(Lymphadenopathy = Disease affecting the lymph nodes)

Bonus Trick: “Lympho” and “lymph” sound similar making it easy to remember.

Musculo = Muscle

(Musculoskeletal = Relates to the musculature and skeleton together)

Reminder: “Myo” also refers to muscle.

Naso = Nose

Nasopharynx = Upper part of the pharynx continuous with the nasal passages)

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1. Medical terms - common prefixes
(Dr. John Campbell)
2. Medical Terminology - The Basics - Lesson 1
(JJ Medicine)
3. Medical Terminology: List of Common Abbreviations [Nursing, USMLE]
4. Medical Terminology
5. 🔥 Medical Terminology Made Easy: Suffixes [Coding, Nursing Student Quiz]
6. Understanding Medical Terminology
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