Medical Language Medical words are usually formed of: Roots, which indicate body parts (usually) Suffixes, which are added to roots at end Prefixes, which are added to roots in front
Combining Form A “combining vowel” is often added to a medical root to facilitate word pronunciation. The combining vowel is almost always the letter “o.” Root + combining vowel = combining form Example: Cardi + o = cardi/o, the combining form relating to the heart
Root + Suffix Cardi/o = heart -megaly = an enlargement Cardiomegaly = enlargement of the heart
Root + Suffix Gastr/o = stomach -ectomy = removal Gastrectomy = removal of the stomach (Did you notice that the combining “o” got dropped? That’s because the suffix begins with a vowel, so the “o” is not needed.)
Prefix + Root + Suffix Hemi- = half Gastr/o = stomach -ectomy = removal Hemigastrectomy = surgical removal of half of the stomach
Root + Root + Suffix Hepat/o = liver Splen/o = spleen -megaly = an enlargement Hepatosplenomegaly = enlarged liver and spleen Splenohepatomegaly = same meaning, just different order of roots!
Synonyms Some medical words are synonyms, as in ordinary English. “Myopic” and “nearsighted” mean the same thing--they are synonyms.
Antonyms Medical language has antonyms just as ordinary English does. Antonyms are opposites, such as “anterior” (front) and “posterior” (back).
Tricky Sound-Alikes Homonyms sound alike but mean different things and have different spellings. Ilium and ileum are NOT the same thing! I-l-i-u-m is a bone. I-l-e-u-m is part of the small intestine.
Eponyms Medical language is also full of eponyms, which are words derived from a person’s name. Eponyms are used to name surgical procedures, medical instruments, diseases, etc.
Medical Parts of Speech Medical language has same parts of speech as ordinary English. Most medical terms, however, are nouns or adjectives. Adjectives have only one form. Nouns have singular and plural forms.
Damage Control Those who work with medical records know the importance of precise medical language. Otherwise, you might see more bloopers such as these, taken from real patient records.
“By the time he was admitted, his rapid heart had stopped and he was feeling better.”
“Discharge Status: Alive but without permission.