Pronouncing Medical Terms

Before moving on to pronunciation, we must cover a few rules of spelling. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that most medical terms don’t follow the rules of basic English. The rules for medical terminology must be followed unless they do happen to coincide with the rules of basic English.

The following rules are listed in no particular order. No rule is more important than the other rules.

Medical Terminology Rule #1 -Words ending inis should be changed to es.

  • The plural form of diagnosis isdiagnoses
  • The plural form of prognosis isprognoses

Medical Terminology Rule #2 – Words ending in ma or oma should be changed to mata.

  • The plural form of fibroma isfibromata
  • The plural form of carcinoma iscarcinomata

Medical Terminology Rule #3 – Words ending in a should be changed to ae.

  • The plural form of vertebra isvertebrae.
  • The plural form of scapula isscapulae

Medical Terminology Rule #4 – Words ending in um should be changed to a.

  • The plural form of bacterium is bacteria
  • The plural form of labium is labia

Medical Terminology Rule #5 – Words ending in us should be changed to i.

  • The plural form of bronchus isbronchi.
  • The plural form of fungus isfungi.

Medical Terminology Rule #6 – Words ending in axix, or yx should be changed to ces. Change thexto c and add es.

  • The plural form of appendix isappendices
  • The plural form of thorax isthoraces

Medical Terminology Rule #7 – Words ending in nx should be changed to ges. This rule is specific to medical terminology. Change thex to and add es.

  • The plural form of larynx islarynges
  • The plural form os phalanx is phalanges

Medical Terminology Rule #8 – If the medical term is Latin and contains both a noun and an adjective, both words should be pluralized.

  • The plural form of placenta previa isplacentae previae.
  • The plural form of verruca vulgaris isverrucae vulgares

Standard English rules do apply to some medical terms. Assuming the above rules don’t apply, the following standard rules of English should be used.

Medical Terminology Rule #9 – Add an s to form the plural of some words.

  • The plural form of disease isdiseases.
  • The plural form of stethoscope is stethoscopes

Medical Terminology Rule #10 – When the word ends in sxesch, or sh, add es.

  • The plural form of crutch iscrutches
  • The plural form of patch ispatches

Medical Terminology Rule #11 – When the word ends in and has a consonant directly before it, change the y to and add es.

  • The plural form of artery is arteries
  • The plur form of ovary is ovaries

Of course, as with any other language there are dozens of exceptions to rules of medical terminology. There are far too many exceptions for us to list in this lesson.

Now that we know how the rules followed in forming the plurals of most medical terms, how do we pronounce them? Most medical terms are derived from Latin and Greek words. Chances are your high school English class didn’t cover most of these terms! Medical terms are often not pronounced in the same way as English words. Once you become familiar with the basic medical terms, most of the others should come naturally.

In no particular order, here are some of the rules for pronunciation of medical terms.

1) Words beginning withps are normally pronounced like ans.

  • The word psychiatry is pronounced sigh-kye-a-tree

2) Words beginning with pn are normally pronounced like ann.

  • The word pneumonia is pronounced new-moan-ya

3) Words beginning with ch are normally pronounced like a k.

  • The word chronic is pronounced kron-ik

4) Words beginning withare normally pronounced like an s if the lettersie, ory following the c.

  • The word cycle is normally pronounced sigh-cull
  • The word cyst is normally pronounced sist.

5) Words beginning withare normally pronounced like aif the letters ie, or y following thej.

  • The word genetic is normally pronounced je-ne-tik.
  • The word geriatric is normally pronounced jer-e-at-ric

To show that there really are no rules, we must include the exceptions below.

6) Words beginning with z can be pronounced like anx or a z.

7) Words beginning with s can be pronounced like sc, or ps.

8) Words beginning withare normally pronounced like or p.

Below we’ve listed a few common medical terms along with the acceptable pronunciation.



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