Breaking Down Medical Terms

If you haven’t already done so, we highly suggest printing our free lists of exterior root words, interior root words, prefixes, and suffixes. There are links to the printable lists on the last page of this course. By utilizing the lists, you should be able to identify each medical term or condition listed on the chart at the bottom of this page.

A complex medical term is like a small jigsaw puzzle.  The puzzle is already put together and you need to take the pieces apart. The pieces are the prefix, root word, and suffix.  Remember that not all words have both prefixes and suffixes. Some have one or the other but don’t have both.

Let’s break down a common medical term – appendicitis. We all know what appendicitis is but let’s break down the word so we can see the method involved. The root word appendic tells us the affected body part is the appendix. The suffix itis means inflammation of. Appendicitis means inflammation of the appendix.


Common Medical Terms and Conditions
Abductionmoving a body part away from the point of origin
Amenorrheawithout a menses or period
Anovulatoryovaries not ovulating
Anti-inflammatoryagainst or opposing inflammation
Bilateralboth sides
Bradyarrhythmiaslow, irregular heart beat
Bradycardiaslow heart rate
Cardiogramfilm created by a cariography
Cardiographyprocess of recording heart activity
Cardiomegalyenlargement of the heart
Colotomysurgery of the colon
Dissectioncut or slice into two parts
Dysfunctionalpainful or difficult menstruation
Endoscopeinstrument used for internal examination
Endoscopyvisual examination using an endoscope
Erythrocytesred blood cells
Erythrocytosisincrease erythrocytes
Euthyroidnormal thyroid (eu means normal)
Febrilehaving a fever
Gastritisinflammation of the stomach
Gastrodyniaa pain in the stomach (-dynia means pain)
Hyperemesisexcessive vomitting
Hypertensionhigh blood pressure (hyper means high)
Hypotensionlow blood pressure (hypo means low)
Infraumbilicalbeneath or below the umbilicus
Mammogramrecord of a mammography
Mammographyexamination of the breast
Melanocytespigmentation cell in skin layer
Microscopiccan only be seen with a microscope
Neuritisinflammation of a nerve
Neuropathya nerve condition
Neuroplastyreconstruction of a nerve
Oligomenorrhealow menstrual flow
Oliguriainfrequent urination
Periurethralaround the opening of the urethra
Polyuriaexcessive urination
Postoperativebefore an operation
Premenstrualbefore the menstrual period begins
Prenatalbefore giving birth
Preoperativeafter an operation
Pseudocystmass that resembles a cyst
Pseudopregnancyfalse pregnancy
Salpingectomyremoval of a fallopian tube
Splenomegalyenlargement of the spleen


The above words were just a teaser. Try to break down as many of the words are you can by identifying the root word, prefix, and suffix.

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