Unlock the keys to successfully integrating complex Medical Terminology to your repertoire of verbal understanding.
Learning all the necessary Medical Terminology for successful navigation of your job or schooling doesn’t have to be an overwhelming and daunting task.
In fact, mastering and learning to properly pronounce all of these terms is a rather simple process, so long as you go about it the right way.
By exploring the fundamentals of the word structure, its foundation, and in understanding why it appears the way it does, you will find yourself effortlessly memorizing thousands of terms.
In Medical Terminology you’ll encounter a simple use of easily understood language bringing a more neutral and easy to digest energy to this process of learning.
As you dive into the process itself, Medical Terminology will guide you through a straight forward two-step process:
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Master Your Medical Vocabulary by Learning to Pronounce, Understand and Memorize over 2000 of the Most Commonly Used Medical Terms.
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Chapter 1: Basic Concepts of Medical Terminology
Understanding Word Parts
Chapter 2: Body Structures
The Body Planes
The Horizontal Plane
The Vertical Planes
Body Direction Terms
Major Body Cavities
The Dorsal Cavity
The Ventral Cavity
Regions of the Thorax and Abdomen
Quadrants of the Abdomen
Chapter 3: Cell Structures
The Structure of Cells
Adult Stem Cells
Embryonic Stem Cells
Dominant and Recessive Genes
The Human Genome
Chapter 4: The Skeletal System
The Formation of Bones
The Structure of Bones
The Tissues of Bone
Anatomic Landmarks of Bones
Components of Synovial Joints
Bones of the Skull
Thoracic (thoh-RAS-ick) Cavity
The Wrists, Hands, and Fingers
The Spinal Column
The Pelvic Girdle
The Legs and Knees
Chapter 5: The Muscular System
Structures of the Muscular System
Types of Muscle Tissue
Skeletal Muscles (Striated or voluntary muscles)
Smooth Muscles (Visceral or Involuntary muscles)
Myocardial Muscle (Cardiac muscle)
Muscular Contraction and Relaxation
Antagonistic Muscle Pairs
Terms for Muscular Motions
Abduction and Adduction
Flexion and Extension
Elevation and Depression
Rotation and Circumduction
Pronation and Supination
Dorsiflexion and Plantar Flexion
How Muscles are Named
Based on Their Origin and Insertion:
Based on Their Action:
Based on Their Location:
Based on the Fiber Direction:
Based on the Number of Divisions
Based on Shape or Size
Based on Strange Reasons
Muscles and Their Functions
Muscles of the Head:
Muscles of the Trunk
Muscles of the Shoulders and Arms
Muscles of the Legs
Chapter 6: Nervous System
Divisions of the Nervous System
The Myelin Sheath
The Central Nervous System
The Parts of the Brain
The Cerebral Hemispheres
The Cerebral Lobes
The Spinal Cord
The Peripheral Nervous System
The Cranial Nerves
The Peripheral Spinal Nerves
The Autonomic Nervous System
Chapter 7: The Cardiovascular system
Structures of the Cardiovascular System
The Walls of the Heart
Blood Supply to the Myocardium
The Chambers of the Heart
The Valves of the Heart
Pulmonary and Systemic Circulation
The Blood Vessels
The Venae Cavae
Cells of the Blood
The Rhesus factor (Rh factor)
Chapter 8. Endocrine system
Structures of the Endocrine System
The Thyroid Gland
The Pancreas (Pancreatic Islets)
The Pineal Gland
The Pituitary Gland
The Adrenal Glands
The Parathyroid Glands
Specialized Types of Hormones
Hormones Secreted by Fat Cells
Chapter 9: The Integumentary System
The Structures of The Skin
The Subcutaneous Layer
The Sebaceous (seh-BAY-shus) Glands
The Sweat Glands
Chapter 10: The Lymphatic and Immune Systems
Absorption of Fats and Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Interstitial Fluid and Lymph Creation
Structures of the Lymphatic System
Lymphatic Vessels and Ducts
Additional Structures of the Lymphatic System
The Thymus Gland
The Vermiform Appendix
The Immune System
The Immune System’s First Line of Defense
The Antigen-Antibody Reaction
The Complement System
Chapter 11: The Respiratory System
Structures of the Respiratory System
The Paranasal Sinuses
The Pharynx (Throat)
Larynx (voice box)
Protective Swallowing Mechanisms
Trachea (or windpipe)
Alveoli (air sacs)
Inhalation and Exhalation
Chapter 12: The Digestive System
The Oral Cavity (Mouth)
Soft Tissues of the Oral Cavity
Structures and Tissues of the Teeth
Saliva and Salivary Glands
The Rectum and Anus
Accessory Digestive Organs
The Role of the Mouth, Salivary Glands, and Esophagus
The Role of the Stomach
The Role of the Small Intestine
The Role of the Large Intestine
Chapter 13: The Reproductive System
The Male Reproductive System
The Scrotum and Testicles
The Vas Deferens, Seminal Vesicles, and the Ejaculatory Duct
The Prostate Gland
The Bulbourethral Glands
The Female Reproductive System
The external female genitalia:
The Internal Female Genitalia
Terms Related to Pregnancy and Childbirth
The Chorion and Placenta
The Amniotic Sac
The Umbilical Cord
The First Stage:
The Second Stage:
The Third Stage:
Chapter 14: Other Sensory Systems
The Adnexa of the Eyes
Muscles of the Eye
The Eyelids, Eyebrows, and Eyelashes
The Lacrimal Apparatus
Walls of the Eyeball
Segments of the Eyeball
Structures of the Retina
The Ciliary Body
The Cornea, Pupil, and Lens.
Normal Action of the Eye
The Inner Ear
The Middle Ear
The Auditory Ossicles
The Eustachian Tubes
The Outer Ear
Normal Action of the Ears
Chapter 15: Medical Specialties
General Medical Specialties Relating to Health and Disease
Medical Specialties Related to the Skeletal System
Medical Specialties Related to the Cardiovascular System
Medical Specialties Related to the Lymphatic And Immune Systems
Medical Specialties Related to the Respiratory System
Medical Specialties Related to the Digestive System
Medical Specialties Related to the Urinary System
Medical Specialties Related to the Nervous System
Medical Specialties Related to the Eyes
Medical Specialties Related to the Ears
Medical Specialties Related to the Integumentary System
Medical Specialties Related to the Endocrine System
Medical Specialties Related to the Male Reproductive System
Medical Specialties Related to the Female Reproductive System and Childbirth
To master medical terminologies, you have to do more than just memorizing the terms, you need to explore the terms and how they can be created. This will reveal medical mysteries to you, and provide you with a better knowledge of every subject-based term.
Take this book as a private course that you must undertake to acquaint yourself with the medical terms used daily in hospitals, clinics, laboratories, pharmacies, and even health insurance companies.
The mastery starts with mastering the medical language itself. Hence, this book starts with the background of medical terminology; digging into the details of the formation of words, word parts, pronunciation, usage, and recognition. This will help you gain a better understanding of the art of creating and breaking down of words.
The second process involves understanding the different body systems and the words associated with them. Your knowledge of prefixes, suffixes, and root words will enable you to master various aspects of the terminology.
Please note that you are not obliged to read the whole of this book nor remember all the details in every chapter. You can read the chapters randomly and skip any chapter that you don’t need. You can always check the skipped sections another time.
There are some unique conventions in this book especially in making the terminologies easy to pronounce, that you may not find elsewhere. I deliberately used such a style in order to create a lively tone.
Systems of the body are used to divide the major chapters. Each system chapter explains how the body system works. The language with which I explained things is simple and easy to understand; so, you might see some informal words that you were not hitherto used to. This is done to neutralize the official terms that you are used to.
You can pick up this book at any time and study it in order to gain mastery of medical terminology. Understanding the how and why of medical terms is not less important than learning the terms themselves. This is the reason we put those chapters first. Nevertheless, feel free to study very hard the sections that you find very useful. Exude boldness and confidence while reading the book. Once you have mastered how these words are made, you will find it easy to memorize and master the terms in your daily life.
Medical terminology refers to a unique vocabulary used by healthcare practitioners for efficient and effective communication. It includes various terms that describe the body organs, system, and functions (human anatomy and physiology). It also explains body locations, diagnostic imaging, diseases, laboratory testing, surgeries, diagnoses and lots more. All these deserve to have specific names, otherwise, medical professionals would find it difficult to communicate with one another. For instance, your doctor may cure you of a shoulder pain once you have complained to him. But while communicating with a surgeon, the doctor needs to be more specific.
Medical terminologies are uniform and consistent globally. This is because the words are originally derived from Greek and Latin words. Some of the terms may be long, they sometimes summarize a phrase to a single word. For example, gastroduodenostomy is a word that means “communication between the stomach and the first part of the small intestine.”
Medical terminology is a vast field of knowledge. It is synonymous to learning the vocabulary of a foreign language. A a result of the ever-changing slangs in various fields, the medical vocabulary doesn’t stop expanding. It seems to be an overwhelming task, however, there are methods that can be adopted in learning and mastering of words. Such methods can also help in guessing the meanings of new words.
Virtually every Medical term has its roots from the combination of prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Such component parts maintain their original meaning anywhere they are used. Learning these meanings would help you inanalyze and master many words. The root words are many because they fundamental to the meaning of every word. There are more roots than prefixes and suffixes combined.
A root is the most important component of a word. Medical roots can signify a disease, procedure, or body part. While some roots can be found at the beginning of a word, others can be found after a prefix, before a suffix, or between a prefix and a suffix. Two or more roots can also be combined to form a word, as in cardi-o-vascular and cardi-o-pulmonary. O is the vowel that is most commonly used for such combinations.
Examples of roots used in different positions are listed below.
, a root which stands for the vessel, can be found in the word
. This is an example of a root that appears at the beginning of a word.
, a root word which stands for the head can be found in the word
. This is an example of a root in the middle of a word.
, a root word which stands for skin, can be found in words such as ‘scleroderma’, an example of a root word used at the end of a word.
An example of the combination of roots is phototherapy. While photo means light, therapy means treatment.
Table 1: Common Exterior Root Words
What It Means
Eyelid or eyelash
Cheek (on the face!)
Angle formed where eyelids meet
Neck or cervix (neck of the uterus)
Eyelash or eyelid, or small hair-like processes
Pupil of eye
Fingers or toes
Derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o
Back or posterior
Gums in mouth
Iris of eye
Abdomen, loin, or flank
Back of the head
Chest / thorax
Neck or neck-like
Hair or hair-like
Front of body
Table 2: Common Interior Root Words
What It Means
Spiny or thorny
To breathe in
Common bile duct
Bladder or cyst
Ilium (pelvic bone)
Cornea of eye, horny tissue
Stone (in gallbladder or kidney)
Bone marrow or spinal cord
Oss/eo, oss/i, ost/e, ost/eo
Roof of mouth
Pleura, rib (side)
Gray matter of nervous system
Pelvis of kidney
Tend/o, ten/o, tendin/o
Ur/e, ur/ea, ur/eo, urin/o, ur/o
Vas/o, ven/o, ven/i
Viscera (internal organs)
A prefix involves one or more letters attached to the beginning of a root. Most prefixes used in the medical field can also be seen in standard English vocabulary. To easily get the meaning of a word, you need to compare it with another word that begins with the same prefix. For instance, in the words ‘antislavery’ and ‘antihistamine’, ‘anti’ means against slavery and against histamine respectively. Histamine means the compound that produces allergic reactions.
Table 3: Common Prefixes
What It Means
Lack of, without, not
Before, in front of, or forward
Opposing or against
Double, two, twice, both
Co-, con-, com-
Together or with
Down, or from
Twice or two
Beyond, outside of, or outward
Half, half of
Below, beneath, deficient
Above, excessive, beyond
Below or beneath
Into, or within
After, or following, behind
In front of, before, preceding
Through or across
Some prefixes share the same meaning, but they look different. Examples are listed below.
Anti- and contra- stand for against.
Dys and mal stand for bad or painful.
Epi-, supra-, and hyper- stand for above.
Endo- and intra- stand for within.
However, there are some prefixes whose meanings are opposite to each other despite looking or sounding similar. Some of them are:
Ad- means toward; ab means away from (abduct).
Post- means after; pre-, pro-, and ante- mean before.
Hyper-, epi-, and supra-, mean above; sub-, intra-, and hypo mean below.
Hypo- means deficient; hyper- means excessive.
Brady- stands for slow; while tachy means fast.
A Suffix consists of one or more letters attached to the end of a root. A suffix that starts with a consonant always has a combining vowel such as “o” placed before the suffix. In medical terminology, common suffixes include the addition of -y to a word to mean a procedure. An example is gastroscopy meaning the endoscopic examination of the stomach. The addition of -ly to a word means an act or process. An example is splenomegaly meaning the abnormal enlargement of spleen
Table 4: Common Suffixes
What It Means
-ac, -al, -ar, -ary, -form, -ic, -ical, -ile, -oid, -ory, -ous, -tic
Related to, or pertaining to
Subject to, use
-ent, -er, -ist
A written record
An instrument used to record
Process of recording
-ia, -ism, -sis, -y
Condition or theory
-ian, -iatrics, -iatry, -ics, -ist, -logy
One who studies, specialist
Study of, the process of study
Disease, disease process
Morbid fear of or intolerance
An instrument used to visually examine
Process of visual examination
As stated earlier, most medical terms have their roots traced from Greek and Latin. Sometimes, the original words and their meanings can be found in the text. For example, the word “coccyx” which means the tail end of the spine, has its origin from cuckoo due to the semblance between the cuckoo’s bill and the spine end. The word “acrocyanosis” has its origin from “acr” meaning extremities and the “o” vowel which is joined with the root “cyan” meaning blue with -osis, a suffix which stands for the condition. The combination of all these means a situation of blue extremities.
Another example is the word “muscle” which originated from “mouse” because there is a semblance between the movement of muscles under the skin and the movement of a mouse.
With constant practice, you will become acquainted with various medical terms, and find it easy to interpret and combine them to form meaningful words.
An acronym is a word, or an abbreviation, formed using the first letters or syllables of other words. Uppercase letters are mostly used to express acronyms. There are many other common and uncommon acronyms in medical terminology. While some are identical, others have similar sounds with different meanings. Knowing the context in which they are used will go a long way in understanding a particular word or acronym.
An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another word. Examples are back and front, right and left, up and down, slow and fast, right and wrong. Some prefixes can also be paired as opposites as regards medical terms.
Table 5: Medical Antonyms
What It Means
Moving away from (abduction)
Drawing toward (adduction)
Above or excessive
Below or deficient
Before or in front of
After or behind
Near (think proximity)
Away from (think distance)
In the medical field, an eponym is a term that is named after the person that discovered a particular body part or disease. There are several tests and procedures named after the corresponding inventors.
Stated below are some examples of eponyms used for medical conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease is a kind of irreversible dementia Cushing’s syndrome. The disease mostly occurs as a result of excess cortisol from the adrenal cortex.
Stoke-Adams syndrome is a heart condition that causes loss of consciousness.
Lyme disease is a multi-systematic disorder that is transmitted by ticks.
Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a chromosomal disorder. It was formally called mongolism.
Peyronie’s disease is a deformity of the penis as a result of fibrous tissue found in the tunica albunigea.
Addison’s disease normally occurs as a result of insufficient production of hormones from the cortex of the adrenal gland.
Parkinson’s disease is a disease that causes weakness, tremors, and rigidity. It occurs as a result of the progressive degeneration of the nervous system.
There are some parts of the body that were named after the persons that discovered them. Some of them are:
Bartholin’s glands found in the female perineum.
Wernicke’s center which serves as the center of speech in the brain.
Cowper’s glands found below the male urethra.
Ligament of Treitz located in the intestinal tract.
Allen’s test. This is a test done for occlusion of ulnar or radial arteries.
Belsey Mark IV operation is a procedure used to correct gastroesophageal reflux.
Heimlich maneuver is a method used for removing foreign objects from the airway of a choking victim.
Some medical devices are named after their inventors. Examples are explained below.
A Hickman catheter serves as a central venous catheter that is inserted to be used for the long term.
The Foley catheter is an indwelling urinary catherer.
A Malecot catheter is a tube used for gastronomy feedings.
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