Most words in the English language are comprised of individual parts that each add their own meaning to the root word. The root word is main subject of the word. Understanding medical terms means breaking down the word to its individual parts. Finding the root word is the key.
The root word describes the point part in question. There are also prefixes and suffices, as we previously mentioned. The root words are the keys to everything. There are more root words than there are prefixes and suffixes combined. The root word is the key to understanding to which body part the key refers.
Root words can be classified as exterior or interior. That is, some refer to the outside of the human body and others refer to the inside. We’ll list these types separately to keep the lists as short as possible. If you glance at the list below you’ll notice the first word is acr/o. That means the word can appear with or without the o.
WORD OF CAUTION: This is by no means the complete list of root words used in medical terminology. We’ll introduce more root words in the appropriate chapters.
|Medical Terminology – Exterior Root Words
|armpit or axilla
|eyelid or eyelash
|angle of the eyelids
|neck or cervix (neck of the uterus)
|cheil/o or chil/o
|cheir/o or chir/o
|eyelas or eyelid or hair-like processed
|cor/e or cor/o
|pupil of the eye
|derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o
|dors/i or dors/o
|back or posterior
|iris of the eye
|abdomen, loin or flank
|mamm/ or mamm/o
|back of the head
|ophthalm/o or opt/o
|chest or thorax
|neck or necklike
|hair or hairlike
|ventr/i or ventro
|front of the body
You’ll notice that some of the exterior root words include body parts that are found inside the body such as the tongue and gums. We didn’t create the above list. It’s the reference list used by the medical professions. It’s not important to memorize whether a word is interior or exterior. Remembering the word is all that’s important.
We’ve included a free printable version of the above list. Click here for our printable list of Exterior Root Words. Once the list opens you will be able to print it or download it to your computer.
Since there are more interior root words than exterior, we’ll list the interior words in a separate chapter.