Medical Dictionary

The language of hospital is derived from and includes the language of medicine. The term medical English is often used to include all the language of healthcare.

This work explores the medical terminology which consists largely of Latin and Greek morphemes. It analyses the field of the medical term formation methods and the procedures aiming at creating new words. The assumption that terminological units in LSP obey specific rules of syntactic formation will be examined. At this goal, suffixes, prefixes, compound words, eponyms, acronyms, synonyms, loanwords, syntagmatic compounds, neologisms, elisions, abbreviations, etc. are analysed here.

Finally, the last part contains a list of the most frequently used abbreviations and acronyms specific to the hospital setting. Nurses continually encounter unfamiliar words and abbreviations in medical records and physicians' orders. Alphabetizing lists is essential to find information quickly.


The actual tendency is the wider diffusion of English terms in the other languages, also as integral borrowings. Also some English acronyms have been borrowed from the Italian language and the better known are AIDS, Dna and SARS, but also the less known ones that are used as well, like: APUD, or Amine Precursor uptake and decarboxylation; ELISA, Enzyme-linked immunoadsorbent assay; FSH , Follicle stimulating hormone; FTA-ABS, Fluorescent treponeml antibody-absorption (test); RH, Releasing Hormone; TSH, Thyroid-stimulating hormone;UCG, Urinary Chorionic gonadotrophin; VLDL, Very low-density lipoprotein, etc.

At this purpose, the fundamental role practiced by Latin and Greek has been recorded. Greek and Latin are “synthetic” languages, or rather they allow to compress complex relationships in short linguistic forms packed with meaning.

Some examples of loan words from Greek are:

  • amnesia

  • analysis

  • anatomy

  • antibiotic

  • antiseptic

  • apathy

  • diagnosis

  • eczema

  • epilepsy

  • genetics

  • hemisphere

  • history

  • hormone

  • hypnosis

  • hysteria

  • kinesis

  • logic

  • mania

  • maniac

  • metamorphosis

  • nausea

  • necromancy

  • nemesis

  • neurology

  • nostalgia

  • orgasm

  • pain

  • paranoia

  • parasite

  • pathos

  • phenomenon

  • phobia

  • placenta

  • plasma

  • plastic

  • pneumonia

  • psyche

  • psychiatry

  • psychology

  • psychosis

  • rhythm

  • schizofrenia

  • skeleton

  • sphere

  • symptom

  • urethra

  • xenophobia

With all the loanwords borrowed from Latin into English, an exhaustive list would be too lengthy to be possible. The following are some of the commonly used Latin loanwords I have found:

  • abdomen

  • anatomy

  • bacteria

  • cancer

  • canine

  • capsule

  • cervix

  • chest

  • data

  • ego

  • equilibrium

  • erupt

  • feminine

  • fictitious

  • fungus

  • inertia

  • insane

  • lachrymose

  • libido

  • memory

  • nocturnal

  • orbit

  • physician

  • vertigo


Affixation, is perhaps the most used technique in the medical language, since it allows to express in one term many concepts with the advantage to give transparency to the term, and contributing to make the medical terminology methodical and synthetic, thanks to the correspondence created between conceptual categories and lexical forms: a determined meaning corresponds to a determined suffix.

Some Greek root words

I quote here some of the basic words used in medical terminology of Greek origin that I have individualized in my research:

  • Adén - gland

  • aorté - aorta

  • bronchos - gullet

  • cheir - hand

  • cholé - bile

  • derma - skin

  • gastér - belly

  • haima - blood

  • hépar - liver

  • hygieia - health

  • hymen - membrane

  • kardia - heart

  • kephalé - head

  • kranion - skull

  • larynx - voice box

  • mania - madness, frenzy

  • nausea - seasickness

  • neuron - tendon, nerve

  • osteon - bone

  • ophthalmos - eye

  • pepsis - digestion

  • pharmakon - drug

  • pharynx - throat

  • pleura - side, rib

  • pneuma - air, breath

  • psyche - soul

  • pyon - pus

  • pyr - fire, fever

  • sarx – flesh

  • soma - body

  • spasmos - spasm

  • spleen - spleen

  • stoma - mouth

  • stomachos - stomach

  • tracheia - windpipe

  • trauma – wound

  1. Prefixes

Among the most frequently used elements in the formation of words are prefixes. These consist of one or more syllables (originally preposi­tions or adverbs) placed before the words to show various kinds of rela­tionships.

I quote here the prefixes, of Greek origin that I have attested during the current research, with their meanings and the a few examples of their use:

a-, an- (before a vowel) a privative or a negative conveying defi­ciency, lack or weakness

a-pathy—lack of feeling 1

a–sthenia – lack of strenghth

a–taxia – lack of order


a-trophy – lack of nourishment

an-emia—lack of blood

an-esthesia—lack of sensation

amphi-, ampho —on both sides, double

amphi-bious—living on both sides (land and water)

amphi-theatre—a piace for seeing around, an operating room

ampho-diplopia—double vision in both eyes

ampho-phil—fond of both, a cell which stains with either acid or dyes

ana-, an—up, upward, again

ana-lysis—dissolution, breaking up (of chemical compounds)

ana-mnesís—recollection, medical history

ana-tomy—cutting cutting up, dissection

an-a-phylaxis—renewed loss of protection

anzi —against, opposed to, opposite of

anzi-dote—against a given thing (poison)

anti-pyretic—against fever

anti-septic—against infection

ant-acid—against an acid, neutralizing an acid

apo- off, away from

apo-physis—a growth away, a projection (from a bone)

apo-plexy—a stroke away, a sudden stroke

apo-staxis—a trickling down, a slight haemorrhage

apo-thecary—a pharmacist (apothèkè—a repository)

cardio – heart





cata—down, downward

cata-menia—according to month, menses

cata-rrh— a flowing down, inflammation of the mucous mem­brane

cata-tonia—a downward torte, stupor

cat-hod—downward way, the return goal of an electron

cyto – in relation to cell

cystoscopy - bladder examination

cytoplasm - part of a cell

cytotoxic - cancer drug

cytostatic - substance to stop cell growth

dia —through, across, completely

dia-betes—a going through, syphon, syphon disease

dia-gnosis—knowing completely, determination of the nature of a disease

dia-rrhea—flowing through, fluid discharge

dia -thermy—h eat going through, elevation of temperature by means of a current

dys —bad, difficult, defective, abnormal

dys-entery—bad intestine

dys-pepsia—bad digestion

dys-pnea—difficult breathing

dys-trophy- bad nourishment

dys- somnia – bad sleep

ec-, ex—out, out of, outward

ec-topic—out of place

ec-zema—a boiling out, an inflammation of the skin

ex-ophthalmos—eye (bulging) out

ex-ostosis—bone outside, a bony tumor

electro - amber, related to the electricity





en-, era—in, within

en-cephalon—in the head, the brain

en-demic—in the people, present in a community

em-bolism—thrown in, a plugging of a vessel

era-bryo—grown in, fetus

hyper —over, above, excessive

hyper-emia—excessive blood

hyper-thyroidism—symptoms caused by excessive activity of the thyroid

hyper-tonic—excessive in tension

hyper-trophy—excessive nourishment, overgrowth

hyper-somnia – excessive sleep

hypo —under, below, insufficient

hypo-chondriac—under the cartilage, an imaginary disease

hypo-dermic—under the skin

hypo-glyc-ernia—low proportion of sugar in the blood

hypo-physis—a growth under (the brain), pituitary body

hypo-ventilation – low ventilation

laparo – a bdomen



meta —after, behind, beyond, change

meta-bolism—change in throwing, tissue change

meta-morphosis - change in form

meta-stasis—change in position

met-encephalon—after the brain, hindbrain

para —near, alongside, apart from, abnormal

para-noia—abnormal in mind

para-plegia—near stroke, paralysis of the extremities

par-esthesia—abnormal perception

par-otid—beside the ear

peri —about, around

peri-cardium—around the heart, membrane covering the heart

peri-osteum—around the bone, membrane covering the bone

peri-stalsis—contraction around, contraction of the intestines

peri-toneum—(membrane) stretching around, lining of the ab‑dominal cavity

post — late

post - mortem—after death

postpartum - after childbirth

postprandial - after dinner

post-traumatic – after the trauma

pro —before, forward, in advance

pro-drome—running before, an early symptom

pro-geria—before old age, premature aging

pro-gnosis—knowing before, forecast

pro-phylaxis—advance protection

syn-, sym —with, together, union

syn-drome—running together, an aggregate of symptoms

sy-stole (from syn-stolè)—contraction, the rhythmic contraction of the heart

sym-biosis—living together of two or more organisms

sym-ptom—a falling together, a sign

video - that uses a video, a video camera


2. Suffixes

A suffix is a terminal letter or syllable added to the stem to modify or amplify its meaning. If a suffix begins with a consonant and it is joined to a stem ending in a consonant, a connecting vowel, mostly o is added to make the junction. The most common suffixes are:

-ia, Fr. -ie, E. -y—denotes a pathological state or condition

agon-ia—contest, suffering

hyster-ia—a chronic neurosis formerly thought to be of uterine causation (hystera—womb)


ophthalm-ia—inflammation of the eye

-iasis —signifies a pathological state, condition, or its causation

lith-iasis—formation of calculi (lithos—stone)

psor-iasis—a skin disease (psòra—itch)

trichin-iasis—a disease caused by trichinae infestation

-ikos, L. -ficus, E . -ic— an adjectival termination

an-esthetic—pertaining to anesthesia, a drug producing anesthesia

epilept-ic—pertaining to epilepsy

hect-ic— irregularly feverish (hexis—habit; orig. meaning habitual)

patholog-ic—pertaining to pathology

-ismos, L. -ismus, E. -ism—denotes a condition

embol-ism—the plugging of an artery or vein (embolos—wedge)

hypnot-ism—a condition of artificially induced sleep (hypnos-­ sleep)

metabol-ism—tissue change (metabolé—change)

rheumat-ism—rheumatic fever (rheuma—flux)

-istés, E. -ist—signifies an agent or doer of the action indicated by the root

anatorn-ist—one who cuts up

anesthet-ist—one who takes away sensation

orthodont-ist—one who straightens teeth

urolog-ist—one who treats urological disorders

-itis - originally the adjectival ending -ités used with nosos—disease; it is now used alone and has acquired the significance of inflam­matory disease



bronch-it is



ot - it is


inflammation of the part named in the stem

-ize, Gr. -izein—a verbal suffix indicating treatment by means of a special instrument or drug

an-esthet-ize—to take away sensation

catheter-ize—to use a catheter

hypnot-ize—to put to sleep

- ma, -ema, - oma —designates a concrete pathological condition

ec-zema—a boiling out, inflammation of the skin

ex-anth-ema—a skin flower, a skin eruption

Words ending in -oma are so numerous, referring usually to swell‑ ing or tumor, that this ending is considered equivalent to tumor, e.g.

carcin-oma—a cancerous tumor, a malignant growth

granul-oma—a tumor of granulation tissue

neur-oma—a tumor formed of nerve cells

sarc-oma—a fleshy thing, a fleshy tumor

-oid; originally -oeid, from Gr. eidos —form, appearance; denotes a resemblance to the object designated in the main word

sphen-oid—wedge-shaped (sphén—wedge)

typh-oid—like typhus fever (typhos—stupor)

thyr-oid—the shield like gland (thyreos—shield)

xiph-oid—sword-shaped (xiphos—sword)

-sis, -osis—denotes any production or increase (physiological or pa­thological); secondarily an invasion and increase of parasites within the organism. It is often interchangeable with -iasis as trichin-osis or trichin-iasis

adíp-osis—an excessive accumulation of fat

rhe-xis (from rheg-sis)—a breaking, a rupture

sep-sis—a rotting, putrefaction

tubercul-osis—an invasion by the tubercle bacilli

-scopy – (to see)




-tomy (to cut)


-plasy (to forge)


-logo (word, talk)

-cefalo (head)


-trophy (abnormality of development)



-gram (letter)


-algia (pain)


-dynia (pain)

-cele (tumor, hernia, swelling)

3. Chemical suffixes

-ase (asis—slíme)—denotes a colloid enzyme

amyl-asc—a starch splitting enzyme (amylon—starch)

lip-ase—a fat splitting enzyme (lipos—fat)

-ate —indicates a salt of a base

phosph-are—a salt of phosphoric acid

sulph-ate—a salt of sulphuric acid

-ide —a name for a binary compound containing a non-metallic element

chlor-ide—a compound of chlorine with another element

sulph-ide—a compound of sulphur with a base

-in—a termination noting a glucoside

fibr-in (L. fibra—fiber)

gelar-in (L. gelatum—congealed)

prole-in (Gr. prótos—first)

-ine an ending used in the names of alkaloids

hero-ine—alkaloidal ester of morphine

morph- ine—alkaloid of opium

-ite—a terminal indicating a salt of an acid ending in -ous

phosph-ite — a salt of phosphorous acid

sulph-ite—a salt of sulphurous acid


In addition to the words made up of a stem combined with one or more prefixes and suffixes, there are terms which have a second stem as a component part.

Some Greek terms may have as many as three stems joined, e.g. leuco-cyt-hemia—leucemia. Nouns, adjectives, and adverbs may be used in various combinations. The first part of a compound word generally indicates its essential meaning which is modified or amplified by the second part. If the second part begins with a consonant, the con­ necting vowel ‘ o' is usually inserted for the sake of euphony. If two vowels are juxtaposed by the combination, the first is generally dropped.

Here is a list of nouns regularly appearing as first part of a compound. (Many of these are names of party of the body.)

anthrop- (anthrópos—man)

anthropo-generis—origin of man

anthropo-metry—measurement of man

bio- (bios—) ife )

bio-logy—the science of living organisms

bi-opsy—examination examination of a tissue excised from the living body

broncho- (bronchos—gullet)

broncho-cele—windpipe tumor, goiter

broncho-pneumonia—inflammation of the bronchi

cardi-, cardio- (kardia—heart)

cardi-a-taxia—irregularity in the action of the heart

cardio-gram—recording of the movements of the heart

cheir-, chic- (cheir—hand)

ch(e)íro-practor—a practitioner of manipulation

chiro-gnomy—physiognomy of the band

cyto- (kytos - cell)

cyto-architecture - the order of arrangement of cells in a tissue

cyto-zoic—living in a cell

derma-, dermat- (derma—skin)

dema-graph—an instrument for writing on the skin

dermato-logy—study of the skin

entero- (enteron—the intestine)

enter-ectomy—resection of a segment of the intestine

entero-lith—an intestina) calculus

gastr- (gastér, stem, gastr—stomach)

gastro-enterology—the medical specialty dealing with diseases of the stomach and intestines

gastr-odynia—pain in the stomach

gynec- (gynè, gynec—female)

gyneco-mastia—female breast in the male

gyneco-plasticar—reparative surgery of the female organs

hem-, hemat- (haima, haimat—blood)

hemat-emesis—vomiting of blood


hepat-, (hépar, hépat—liver)

hepat-a-trophy—atrophy of the liver

hepato-melanosis—dark pigmentation of the liver

hydr- (hydòr, hydr—water)

hydro-cephalus—water head, a congenital deformation

hydro-gen—a gas which forma water when combined with oxygen

hydro-therapy—treatment by the use of water

hypno- (hypnos—sleep)

hypn-agogue—inducer of sleep

hypno-lepsy—uncontrollable sleepiness

hyster- (hystera—uterus)

hyster-ectomy—excision of the uterus

hystero-ptosis—prolapse of the uterus

litho- (lithos—atone)

litho-nephria—stone in the kidney

litho-tomy—cutting for stone

morph- (morphé—form)

morpho-logy—the science of structure

morpho-genesis—the evolution of form

my- (mys—muscle)

my-asthenia—muscular weakness

myo-carditis—inflammation of the muscular wall of the heart

narc- (nark&—numbness, stupor)

narco-lepsy—numbing seizure, petit mal

narro-mania—craving for narcotics

nephro- (nephros—kidney)

nephro-py-osis—suppuration of the kidney

nephro-scler-osis—hardening of the kidney

neuro- (neuron- cord, tendon, nerve)

neur-algia—nerve pain

neur-asthenia—nerve weakness

odont- (odys, odont—tooth)

odonto-clasis—breaking of tooth

odont-orthrosis—straightening of teeth

ophthalmo- (ophthalmos—eye)

ophthalmo-gyric — causing eye movements

ophihalmo-scope—an instrument to view the eye

osteo- (osteon—bone)

osteo-malacia—softening of the bone

osteo-necrosis—killing, decay of the bone

ot- (ús, òt—ear)

oto-myc-osis—a fungus-caused inflammation of the ear

oto-rrhea—discharge from the ear

pod- (pús, pod—font)

pod-agra—seizure in the font, gout

pod-iatrist—foot practitioner

pyo- (pyon—pus)

pyo-genic—pus forming

pyo-periton-itis—suppurative inflammation of the peritoneum

pyr-, pyret- (pyr—fire, heat, inflammation)

pyr-exia—an acute inflammation

pyreto-mania—an uncontrollable desire to incendiarism

sphygmo- (sphygmos—pulse)

sphygmo-graph—an instrument to record pulse beat

sphygmo-mano-meter—an instrument for measuring the blood pressure

zoó- (zoòn—a living thing, an animal)

zoò-logy—study of animals

zoò-parasite—an animal parasite

1. List of adjectives which regularly appear as first part of compounded words

allo- (allos—other)

allo-cinesis—passive movement, reflex movement

all-ergy—a clinical change in the capacity of the organism to re­ act to an infection, hypersensitiveness

auto- (autos —.self)

auto-matism—a condition in which movements are made with­ out conscious exercise of the will

aut-opsy—seeing with one's own eyes, post-mortem examination

brady- (bradys—slow)

brady-cardia—abnormal slowness of the heart beat

brady-pnea—abnormal slowness of respiration

caco- (kakos—bad)

cac-hexia—bad habit, lack of nutrition, and wasting cac-idrosis—morbid sweating

crypto- (cryptos—secret, hidden)

crypto-genic—of hidden, obscure origin

crypt-orchid—hidden, undescended testis

ecco- (ektos—outside)

ecto-derm—outer side of the skin

ecto-plasm—moulded on the outer side, the outer side of the cytoplasm

erythro- (erythros—red)

erythro-cyte—red celi, red corpuscle

erythr-edema—red swelling

hemi- (one half)

hemi-atrophy—atrophy of one lateral half of a part or organ

hemi-plegia—half stroke, paralysis of one side of the body

hetero- (heteros—other, different, opposite)

hetero-plasty—surgical grafting with tissue derived from another individual

hetero-tonia—different, variable tension

homeo - (homoios—similar)

homeo-pathy—a special system of therapeutics

homeo-stasis—condition of bodily equilibrium; literally "stand­ing still"

homo- (homos -the same )

homo-lateral—on or relating to the same side

homo-sexual—having attraction for the same sex

idio- (idios—one's own, private)

idio-pathic—noting a primary disease, one originating without apparent extrinsic cause

idio-syncrasy—one's own mixing, peculiarities of a person

iso- (isos—equal, like)

iso-thermal—having the same temperature

iso-tonia—tonic equality

lecco- (leukos—white)

lecco-cyte—white celi, white blood corpuscle

leuco-rrhea—white discharge

macro- (makros—long, large)

macro-cephalic—having a large head

macro-glossia—enlargement of the tongue

mega-, megal- (megas, megal—great, large)

mega-colon—dilatation of the large intestine

megalo-mania—delusion of grandeur

melan- (melas, melan—black),

melan-cholia—black bile, a depressed emotional state

melano-sarcoma—a deeply pigmented sarcoma

meso- (mesos—middle)


mes-entery—middle intestine

micro- (mikros—small)

micro-be (mikros+bios)—small living thing

micro-scope—a viewer of small things

mono- (monos—alone, single)

mono-nuclear—having a single nucleus

mono-plegia—paralysis of one limb

neo- (neos—new, recent, young)

neo-natal—relating to the period immediately succeeding birth

neo-plasm—new growth

nephr- (kidney)

nephritis - kidney inflammation

nephrotic - kidney disorder-related

nephrotoxic - destructive to the kidneys

oligo- (oligos—little, few)

oligo-phrenia—mental weakness, feeblemindedness

oligo-pnea—infrequent respiration

ortho- (orthos—straight, correct)

ortho-dontia—straightènlng of the teeth

ortho-pedics—correction of deformities

oxy- (oxys—sharp, acid)

oxy-gen—a gaseous element present in acids

oxy-lallia—rapid speech

paleo- (palaios—ancient)

paleo-genesis—hereditary transmission of peculiarities

paleo-pathology—study of diseases of the prehistoric times

pan- (par, pan—ali, entire)

pan-creas—all flesh, the pancreas gland

pan-demic—a disease attacking all

polio- (polios—grey)

polio-encephalitis—inflammation of the grey matter of the brain

polio-myelitis—inflammation of the grey matter of the spinal cord

poly- (polys—much, many)

poly-pus—many feet

poly-uria—excessive urination

pneum- (lung)

pneumopathy - lung disease

proto- (pròtos—first)

proto-plasm—first formed, living matter

proto-type—first form, primitive form

pseudo- (pseudés—false, spurious)

pseudo-cele—false cavity, the 5th ventricle of the brain

pseudo-cyesis—false pregnancy

rhin – (nose )



tachy- (tachys— rapid,fast)

tachy-cardia—quick heart, rapid action of the heart

tachy-pnea—rapid breathing

xantho- (xanthos—yellow)

xantho-derm—yellow skin

xanth-opsia—yellow vision

2. Some adverbs regularly appearing as first part of a compound

di- (dis—twice)

di-hydric—a chemical compound with two hydrogen atoms

di-morphism—existing in two forms

endo- (endon—within)

endo-crine—secretion within, internal secretion

endo-metrium—within the uterus, membrane lining the uterus

eu- (eu—well, easy)

eu-phoria—hearing oneself well, good health

eu-thanasia—easy death

exo- outside, outward

exo-genous—originating outside

exo-gnathion—outside jaw, maxilla

opisth- (opisth"hind)

opisth-encephalon—brain behind, the cerebellum

opistho-tonos—stretching backward, a tetanic spasm

palin —back, backward, again

palin-dromia—a running back, a relapse

palin-esthesia—a return of sensation

télé —distant

tele-neuron—the end neuron

tele-pathy—minding-reading from afar

3. Some nouns regularly appearing as second part of a compound

-agope (agógos—leader)

galact-agogue—an agent promoting the secretion of milk

hypn-agogue—inducer of sleep, hypnotic

-agra —seizure

cardi-agra—heart seizure, angina pectoris

pod-agra—foot seizure, gout

-algia (algos—paro)

gastr-algia—stomach ache

neur-algia—nerve pain

-asthenia (asthenés—weak)

my-asthenia—muscular weakness

neur-asthenia—nerve weakness, nervous exhaustion

-cele (kélé—protrusion, tumor, hernia)

hernato-tele—blood cyst

hydro-cele—water hernia

-cinesia (kinésis—movement)

cardio-cinesia—movement, action of the heart

entero-cinesia—movement of the intestine, peristalsis

-clasia, -clasis—breaking

arthro-clasia—breaking of a joint, breaking up of adhesions

hemo-clasis—breaking up of the red blood corpuscles

-cyte (kytos—cell)

erythro-cyte—red blood corpuscle

lympho-cyte—lymph corpuscle

-ectomy (ektomè–excision)

hyster-ectomy—excision of the uterus

thyroid-ectorny—excision of the thyroid gland

- ectopia (ek + topos out of place)

nephr-ectopia—abnormal mobility of the kidney

splen-ectopia—abnormal mobility of the spleen

-emia (hairna—blood)

an-emia—lack of blood

ur-emia—an excess of urea in the blood

-esthesia (aisthèsis—feeling, sensibility)

an-esthesia—lack of feeling

par-esthesia—an abnormal spontaneous sensation (like itching)

-genesis, E. -geny—generation, origin

patho-genesis—the origin or development of a disease

spermato-genesis—production of spermatozoa

onto-geny—the development of the individual

-gram (gramma—writing, drawing)

cardio-gram—the record of the movement of the heart

encephalo-gram—a roentgenogram of the brain

-graph, -graphy (graphein—to write)

dermo-graph—an instrument for marking or writing on the skin

ventriculo-graphy—radiography of the cerebral ventricles

-lith (lithos—stone, calculus)

entero-lith—an intestinal calculus

hemato-lith—a concretion in the wall of a blood vessel

-logia, Fr. -logie, E. -logy (Gr. logos—word, discourse, treatise)

physio-logy—the science which deals with life processes

uro-logy—the specialty dealing with the diseases of the urinary organs

-lysis —dissolution, loosening, breaking down

hemo-lysis—destruction of the red blood cells

para-lysis—loss of voluntary movement in a muscle

-malacia (malakia—softening)

myo-malacia—softening of muscular tissues

osteo-malacia—softening of the bones

-mania —madness, uncontrollable impulse

klepto-mania—a pathological impulse to steal megalo-mania—delusion of grandeur

-megalia, E. -megaly (megas, megal—large)

acro-megalia or acromegaly—enlargement of the extremities

spleno-megalia—enlargement enlargement of the spleen

-meter, Gr. mètron, L. metrum—measure, an instrument for meas­uring

pulsi-meter—instrument to measure the pulse

thermo-meter—instrument to measure heat

-odynia (odyné—pain)

acr-odynia—pain in the extremities

ot-odynía—paro in the ear

-opia (òps—vision) -

ambly-opia—dimness of vision (amblys—dull)

my-opia—winking vision, short-sightedness (myein—to wink)

-pathy (pathos—suffering)

adeno-pathy-glandular disease

psycho-pathy—à disorder of the mind, insanity

-philia (philein—to like)

hemo-philia—"liking of blood", a disorder marked with haemor rhages

-phobia (phobos—fear)

claustro-phobia—a morbid fear of being in any closed place

hydro-phobia—fear of water, rabies

-plasty (plassein—to form; cf. "plastic" surgeon)

entero-plasty—plastic surgery of the intestines

rhino-plasty—plastic surgery of the nose (rhis, rhin—nose)

-plegia (plég~—stroke)

hemi-plegia—half stroke, paralysis of one side of the body

para-plegia—paralysis of the lower part of the body

-poiesis—making, formation

hemato-poiesis—formation of blood

-ptosis—falling, displacement

hystero-ptosis—prolapse of the uterus

viscero-ptosis—displacement of the internal organs

-pyosis (pyon—pus)

arthro-pyosis—suppuration in a joint

nephro-pyosis—suppuration of the kidney

-rrhagia, -rrhage (rhégnymi—break forth)


metro-rrhagia—bleeding from the uterus (métra—uterus)

-rrhaphy (rrhaphè—stitch)

perineo-rrhaphy—suturing of the perineum

urethro-rrhaphy—suture of the urethra

-rrhea (rrhoia—flow)

gono-rrhea—a discharge caused by gonococcus infection

leuco-rrhea—white discharge

-sclerosis —hardening, induration

arterio-sclerosis—hardening of the arteries

arthro-sclerosis—stiffness of the joints

-scope, -scopy (skopein—to view)

cysto-scope—an instrument to view the bladder (kystis—bladder)

ophthalmo-scope—an instrument to view the fundus of the eye

-spasm (spasmos onvulsion, cramp)

entero-spasm—intestinal colic

pyloro-spasm—painful contraction of the pylorus

-stasis —stoppage, checking

hemo-stasis—arrest of bleeding

homeo-stasis—standing still, bodily equilibrium

-staxis —dripping, oozing, slow haemorrhage

entero-staxis—bleeding from the intestines

epi-staxis—nose bleed

-stenosis— narrowing

cardio-stenosis—narrowing of the heart

entero - stenosis—narrowing of the intestines

-stomy (stoma—mouth)

colo-stomy—forming an opening into the colon

cysto-stomy—forming an opening into the bladder

-therapy (therapeia—treatment)

hydro-therapy—treatment by water

phy sio-therapy—treatment by natural means (air, water, massage)

-thermy (thermè - heat)

dia-thermy—elevation of temperature by electric current

electro-thermy—applying heat by electricity

-tomy (tomè—incision)

laparo-tomy—incision into the doin (lapara—loin)

lobo-tomy—operation on the frontal lobe

-trophy (trephein; stem, troph—to nourish)

a-trophy—lack of nourishment, wasting of the tissues of the body

hyper-trophy—excessive nourishment, overgrowth

-uria (úrein—tfrinate)

hemat-uria—blood in the urine

py-uria—pus in the urine


Greek medicine migrated to Rome at an early date, and many Latin terms crept into its terminology. Latin was the language of science up to the beginning of the 18th Century, so all medical texts were written in Latin. The number of Latin root words in medicine is legion. I shall quote just a few as examples.

1. Some Latin root words

  • anus—ring

  • aqua—water

  • bacillus—little rod

  • bucca—cheek

  • cancer—crab

  • caput—head

  • caries—decay

  • cella—chamber

  • cerebrum—brain

  • cervix—neck

  • cor—heart

  • corpus—body

  • cortex—bark

  • cutis—skin

  • dens—tooth

  • facies—face

  • fascia—band

  • febris—fever

  • femur—thigh , thigh bone

  • fetus—embryo

  • foramen—perforation

  • fornix—arch

  • fossa—ditch

  • frons—forehead

  • fundus—base, bottoni

  • glans—gland

  • hernia—rupture

  • ilium—flank

  • labium—lip

  • latús—side

  • lens—lentil

  • ligamentum—binding

  • lingua—tongue

  • lues—plague

  • lupus—wolf

  • manus—hand

  • meatus—opening

  • mens—mind

  • mensis—month

  • morbus—disease

  • nodus~—knot:

  • oculus—eye

  • os—mouth

  • ovurn — egg

  • patella—shallow pan

  • pectus—chest

  • pelvis—basin

  • placenta—flat cake

  • pons—bridge

  • pulmo—lung

  • pupilla—little girl

  • ren—kidney

  • retina—net

  • ruga—wrinkle, furrow

  • saliva—spitele

  • scrotum—pouch

  • sella—chair

  • semen—seed

  • spina—thorn

  • stimulus—goad

  • succus—juice

  • sudor—sweat

  • tabes—wasting

  • talus—ankle

  • tergum—hack

  • tonsilla—pointed pole

  • tunica—garment

  • tussis—cough

  • ulcus—ulcer

  • uterus—womb

  • vagina—sheath

  • valva—valve

  • vas—vessel

  • vena—vein

  • venter—belly

  • vermis—worm

  • vesica—bladder

  • virus—poison

2. Prefixes

When prefixes are joined with a stem, some changes take place, which are essentially the same as the ones outlined in the introduction to the Gr. prefixes. In addition to these, it is to be noted that the final consonant of the Latin prefixes ad-, con- and ob- are usually changed to duplicate the let­ ter which follows, for example:

ad -cept becomes ac -cept con -lateral becomes col- lateral

ad -ferens becomes af -ferens ob- ciput becomes oc -ciput

ad -sume becomes as -nume ob -press becomes op -press, etc.

con -lapse becomes col -lapse

The most important Latin prefixes are listed below with their mean­ ings and a few examples of their use:

a-, ab-, abs— away from, off

a-vulsion—tearing away

ab-ductor—leading away

ab-oral—away from the mouth

abs-tract—a condensation

ad —to, toward

ad-hesion—sticking to

ad-renal—near the kidney, adrenal gland


ap-pendix—hanging upon

ambi, ambo—both, on both sides

ambi-dextrous—able to use both hands

ambi-valent—having power in both directions

ambo-ceptor—accepting both, a substance in the blood

ambo-sexual—bisexual, affecting both sexes

ante — before (in time or space), in front of, forward

ante-cubital—before the elbow

ante-flexion—bending forward

ante-natal—before birth

ante-version—tipping forward

bi-, bis— twice, double

bi-carbonate—a salt having two elements of carbonic acid

bi-cuspid—having two points

bi-lateral—pertaining to both sides

bis-axillary—pertaining to both armpits (axilla)

circum—around, about

circurn-cision—cutting around

circum-flex—bent around

circum-ocular—around the eye

circum-oral—around the mouth

co-, con- (from L. cum)—with, together

co-agulation—changing into a clot

con-cussion—a violent shock

col-lapse—extreme prostration

com-press—pressed together, a compressed pad

contro —against, opposed

contra-ception—against conception

contra-indication—rendering a particular treatment undesirable

contro-stimulant—opposing stimulation

contra-toxin—against toxin

de—down, downward; sometimes a privative

de-ciduous—not permanent, temporary

de-composition—decay, putrefaction

de-mentia—without mind, mental deterioration

de-odorant—taking odor away

di-, dis—an inseparable preposition denoting sundering, apart; sometimes negative

di-gestion—carrying (food) away, digestion

dis-infectant—freeing from infection, an agent that

disinfects dis-location—displacement (of a bone)

dis-sect—cut apart, cut up

e-, ec-, ex—out, out of, off, removal

e-jection—act of throwing out

e-nucleate—to remove whole

ex-tract—something drawn out, extracted

ex-udate (from ec+sudate)—sweat out, sweat

extra-, extro —outside of, outer sfide

extra-cellular—outside the cell

extra-cranial—outside the skull

extra-vasation—a discharge of blood from a vessel into the tissues

extro-vert—a person whose interest is turned outward

in-, i m —in, into, inside

in-cision—cutting cutting in, a cut

in-cubation—lying in, the latent stage of an infectious disease

im-mersion—placing a body under water

im-pacted—pressed closely together, immovable

in-, im—an inseparable prefix indicating a negation; a privative

in-curable—not curable

in-sane- without mind, of unsound mind

im-maculate—without a spot

ir-reducible—not reducible, incapable of being made smaller

infra - below, beneath, downward, lower

infra-inguinal—below the groin

infra-maxillary—below the maxilla

infra-orbital —below the orbit (eye socket)

infra-red—beyond the red end of the spectrum

inter —between

inter-cellular - between cells

inter-digital—between the fingers or toes

inter-mittent—marked by intervals

inter - vertebral—situated between two vertebrae

intra —within, inside of

intra-cellular—within the cell

intra-rectal—within the rectum

intra-uterine—within the uterus

intra-venous—in, into, within a vein

intro —into, inward, within

intro-duction—leading into

intro-flexion—bending inward


intro-vert—turned within, a person given to introspection

juxta —beside, near

juxta-articular—situated near a joint

juxta-position—an adjacent position

juxta-spinal—dose to the spinal column

ob—in front of, against, near (space or time)

ob-literation—complete removal

ob-stetrics—to stand in front (of a woman), midwifery

ob-struction—the act of blocking or clogging

oc-clusion (from ob- clusion)—the act of closure or state of being closed

per - through, thorough, excessive, very

per-cutancous—through the skin (cutis)

per-forate—to pierce, bore through

per-meable—permitting the passage through

per-oxide—the oxide that contains the greatest number of oxygen atoms

post— behind, following, after (time or space), posterior

post-encephalitis—following or a sequel of encephalitis

post-febrile—after fever (febris)

post-ocular—behind the eye

post-partum–after birth

prae-, E. pre—before (in time or space), in front of, anterior

pre-frontal—the anterior portion of the frontal lobe

pre-gnancy—before birth, gestation

pre-mature—unripe, undeveloped, occurring before the appointed time

pre-oral—in front of the mouth

pro- before, in front of, forward

pro-cess—an advance or progress

pro-ductive—leading forward, capable of producing

pro-lapse—to fall, sink forward

pro-sector—one who prosects, demonstrator of anatomy

re-, red (before a vowel)—back, again

re-current—running back, returned

re-duce—lead back, replace

re-flex—bent back, reacting, reaction

red-integration—renewal, restoration of lost or injured parts

retro- back, backward, behind

retro-flexion—bending backward

retro-grade—going backward, moving backward

retro-nasal—posterior nasal

retro-version—turning backward

se—an inseparable prefix meaning apart, sundering

se-cretion—separation (esp. of various substances from the blood)

se-gregation—removal of certain parts from a mass

se-junction—breaking of continuity

sub-, sup—under (in position or degree), beneath, downward, nearly

sub-acute—not definitely acute

sub-cutaneous—under the skin

sub-liminal—below the threshold (of sensation)

sup-puration (from sub-puration)—the formation of pus

super —above (in position or degree), over, upper part, extreme

super-acute—excessively sharp or acute

super-ciliary—above the eyebrow

super-numerary—in excess of the regular or normal number

super-tension—extreme tension

supra —above, upon, over, upper

supra-costal—above the rib (costa)

supra-pubic—above the pubic arch

supra-renal—above the kidney (ren)

supra-sternal - above the breast (sternum)

trans —across, through, beyond

trans-ference—carry across, displacement of symptoms or effect trans-fusion—pouring across, transfer of blood trans-plantation—grafting of tissues

trans-urethral—through the urethra

ultra —beyond, in excess

ultra-filtration—extra fine filtration

ultra-ligation—ligation of a vessel beyond the origin of a branch

ultra-violet—rays beyond the violet end of the spectrum

ultra-virus—extra virus, filtrable virus

3. Suffixes

-ago, -igo (from L. ago—to drive)—gives an idea of activity

lumb-ago—rheumatism of the lumbar region (lumbus—loin)

prur-igo—itch (prurire—to itch)

veri-igo—dízziness, giddiness (vertere—to turn around)

- alis, E. -al—an adjectival termination

cruci-al—decisive (crux—cross)

digit-al—relating or resembling a digit

dors-al—relating to the back (dorsum) or-

al—relating to the mouth (os, stem or-)

-culum, E. -cle—a diminutive

corpus-cle—little body

folli-cle—little bag (follis)

ventri-cle—little belly, ventricle (venter)

vesi-cle—little bladder (vesica)

-or —denotes a state or an agent

don-or—giver (donare—to give)

levat-or—one that lifts (levare—to lift)

rub-or—redness (ruber—red)

turo-or—swelling (tumescere—to swell)

-orium, Gr. -tèrion—designates a place

sanar-oriurn—a piace for treatment (sanare—to heal)

sens-orium—the seat of sensation (sensus—sense)

tent-orium—tent, an anatomica) part resembling a tent or cov­ ering

-osus, E. -ous or -ose—an adjectival suffix

aque-ous—watery (aqua)

adip-ose—fatty (adeps, stem; adip—fat)

pii-ose—hairy (pilus—hair)

rug-ose—wrinkled (ruga—wrinkle)

-ras, E. -ty—denotes an abstract quality or idea

acidi-ty—the state of being acid (acidum)

immuni-ty—a state resistant to disease (immunis—free from cervice)

in-sani-ty—unsoundness of mind (insanus)

senili-ty—old age (senex—old)

-rio, Fr. and E. -tion—a suffix of verba) roots signifying an action or function

bi-furca-tion—a forking, division finto branches (furca—fork)

in-fiamma-tion—a morbid change in the tissues (fiamma—Rame)

palpa-tion—an examination by the hands (palpare—to feel)

4. Compound words

Latin is, comparatively speaking, poor in compound words. Instead of doubling up words in Latin, significant prefixes or suffixes are added, or the words, retaining their proper syntactical relations, are simply written together as one word (jurisdictio, paterfamilias, etc.). Still, the language contains many genuine compounds of all parts of speech: substantives, verbs, and adverbs.

5. Some compounded words

ilio- (ilium—fiank)

ilio-costal—relating to the ilium, and ribs (costa)

ilio-femoral—relating to the ilium and thigh borse (femur)

ilio-lumbar—relating to the iliac and lumbar region (lumbus‑loin)

ilio-sacral—relating to the ilium and sacrum

latero- (latus, stem later—side)

latero-abdominal—pertaining to the side and abdomen

latero-flexion—a bending or curvature to one side (flectere — to bend)

latero-torsion—twisting to one side (torquere—to twist)

latero-version—turning to one side (vertere—to turo)

6. Some adjectives regularly appearing as first part of a compound

albo —(albus—white)

albo-cinereous—ashen white (cinus, ciner—ash)

albe-ferrin—a tight brown powder with an iron compound (ferrum)

albu-lactin—trade name of a soluble lactalbumin (lac-milk)

anter- (anterior—before, in front of)

antero-grade—moving forward (gradior—to step)

antero-lateral—in front and to the side (latus)

antero-posterior—relating to both front and rear.

dextro —(dexter, dextr—right).

dextro-ocular—right eyed (oculus)

dextro-manual—right handed (manus)

dextro-pedal—right footed (per, stem, ped-)

mal- (malus - bad, evil)

mal-adjustment—poor adjustment

mal-aria—bad air (aria)

mal-formation—congenital deformity

mal-practice—mistreatment of a disease

medio- (medius—middle)

medio-carpal—relating to the central part of the wrist (carpus)

medio-lateral—relating to the middle and one side

medio-tarsal—relating to the middle of the instep (tarsus)

multi- (multus—many)

multi-forra—occurring in many forms

multi-gravida—a woman who has been pregnant many timer

multi-lobar—having several lobes multi-nuclear—having two or more nuclei

pluri- (plus, plur—more)

pluri-glandular—noting several glands or their secretion

pluvi-gravida—a synonym for multi-gravida

pluri-para—a woman who has given birth to three or more children

primi- (primus—first)

primi-para—a woman giving birth the first time

prim-ordial—primitive (ordire—to begin)

postero- (posterior—behind)

postero-lateral—behind and to one side

postero-parietal—relating to the posterior portion of the parietal lobe

semi -half, in part, somewhat

semi-comatose—in a condition of mild coma

semi-flexion—midway between extension and flexion

semi-lunar—half-moon shaped (luna)

semi-luxation—a partial dislocation (luxatio)

sesqui —one and a half, one half more

sesqui-basic—a salt with 3 equivalents of the acid for 2 of the base

sesqui-hora—an hour and a half

sinistro- (sinister, sinistr—left)

sinistro-cerebral— relating to the left cerebral hemisphere

sinistro-lateral—relating to the left side

sinistro-torsion—turning or twisting to the left

uni- (unus—one)

uni-axial—having one axis

uni-lateral—having one side, confined to one side only

uni-nuclear—having one nucleus

7. Some nouns usually appearing as second part of a compound word

-form from L. forma—shape, form—indicating a resemblance to the stem word

cunei-forni—wedge shaped (cuneus)

funi-forra—rope like (funis)

fusi-forni—spindle shaped (fusus)

-fuge from L. fugare—to expel, drive away

centri-fuge—an apparatus driving particles to the center

febri-fuge—reducing fever (febris)

vermi-fugean agent causing expulston of intestina) worms (vermis)

8. Hybrid terms

Many medical terms are a mixture of Greek and Latin. Such terms may be called hybrid terms. They may be Greek words with Latin endings, such as

bacteri-al de-hydr-ation

derm-al peri-card-ium hem-al

or L. words with Gr. endings, as

appendic-itis fibr-oma

tonsill-itis granul-oma, etc.

or a mixture of Gr. and L. in one compound such as

cancer-ology para-sacral

colori-meter post-hepatic

mono-nuclear veno-tomy oculo-gyric

viscero-ptosis and many others.


The term false friends is used to describe pairs of words in two languages that look or sound similar but differ in meaning.

In the medical language, there are many false analogies between English and Italian and the most common I have individualized in my research are:

Agony – doesn't mean estrema sofferenza fisica. While agonia is translated to be dying.

Anguished – sofferente, while angosciato is translated desperate, upset.

Callous – insensibile alle sofferenze altrui, while calloso is translated callose.

Care- doesn't mean cura, but attenzione, diligenza,

Collapse- crollo, collasso (not in a medical sense, while collasso (in a medical sense) is translated faintness.

Commotion – confusione tumulto, while trauma cranico is translated concussion.

Culture – coltura (terreno di coltura). For example, Blood culture

Cura – in the medical language is treatment, from which to treat is derived, that is curare and not to care that means interessarsi.

Cute - grazioso. C ute is translated skin.

Delusion doesn't mean disappointment, but illusion.

Desire doesn't mean wish, but sexual desire.

Diffidence, doesn't mean distrust, but luck of self-confidence.

Discomfort doesn't mean discouragement, but inconvenience.

Distracted doesn't mean preoccupied, but very agitated.

Drug - doesn't mean only droga, but medicine .

Emotive doesn't mean emotional, but that is impressive.