Introduction to Word Parts and Medical Language Rules

Learning Objectives

When completing this chapter, the learner will be able to do the following:

  • Identify the various word parts in medical terminology
  • Divide words into prefixes, suffixes, combining forms, and combining vowels
  • Apply spelling and pronunciation rules to creating words from prefixes, word roots, combining vowels, and suffixes
  • List commonly used prefixes and suffixes and their meaning


Origins of Medical Terminology

Words used in medical terminology come from four different sources:

  • Greek and Latin words
    • Examples: osteoarthritis from Greek; arterial from Latin
  • Acronyms: terms that are built from the first letters of a phrase
    • Examples: AIDS from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; CT from computed tomography
  • Eponyms: terms named after a person or place
    • Examples: Ebola virus from the Ebola River; Parkinson’s disease from James Parkinson, who first described the disease in medical literature
  • Modern English
    • Examples: peak flow meter; nuclear medicine scanner

Of these four sources, the majority of words covered in this book will come from Greek and Latin word roots. As each body system is covered in this book, you will learn the important word roots for that system.


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Medical Terminology: An Interactive Approach Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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