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Glossaries A to Z

There is hardly any other aspect of medicine that is so discouraging for the beginning student as medical terminology.


The first impact of the long, unfamiliar words is decidedly depressing. A French essayist of the 16th Century made the apt remark that "The language of medicine is an idiom foreign to the general speech and of discordant sound."

The same criticism could very well apply to present-day medical language, which sounds just as "discordant" to the uninitiated. Although medical terms have been drawn from many languages, a large majority are from Greek and Latin. Some familiarity with the meaning of the most frequently used roots, prefixes, and suffixes will clarify the whole field. With a little study, it will be found that the long and formidable sounding medical terms are a combination of words which describe parts of the body, a function, or a condition.

The basic terms occur over and over again in various combinations. A knowledge of the meaning of the roots, prefixes, and suffixes enables a student to analyze the medical terms into component parts. This is of the greatest aid in learning to understand the vocabulary of medicine. Some names of diseases given by the ancients and still used to-day are, in many instances, simply descriptions of the outstanding symptoms; for example, hydro-phobia - fear of water because the inability to drink is an early characteristic sign of the disease.

Should you want to take a deep dive into the subject or simply want to understand more, Wikipedia has a list of medical roots, suffixes and prefixes here.

Wikipedia also has a huge glossary of medicine page here.

We've published several thousand terms related to health care. Use the menu below to find the word you're looking for.

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