Medical terminology - comprehensive list of medical terms | EHLION (2023)

Everyone comes into contact with medical terminology at some point in their lives, whether during their own visits to the doctor or reading a medical document or report. It’s safe to say that this language can be difficult to understand, almost sounding like a foreign language.

The truth is, like all specialised terminology, medical terminology has a system. That is, once you grasp the basic framework, it becomes much easier to understand exactly what a term is referring to – no matter how complicated it looks.

The purpose of this article is to break down medical terminology so that you can begin to understand it. Whether or not you are a medical student, this article will give you a solid introduction to the topic.


What is medical terminology? Medical terminology is the vocabulary of the medical profession. It’s the specialised language of Western medicine, used to describe everything from the human body – its parts, processes, functions, dysfunctions and diseases – to all the medical procedures, interventions and pharmaceutical treatments. It’s basically the common language medical professionals use to quickly understand each other.

In language, morphology refers to how words are formed and relate to other words. The morphology of medical language works quite simply. Words are formed by combining different base elements, usually from Latin, to accurately describe any possible conditions of the human body. These elements are prefixes, root words, combining vowels and suffixes, of which each term will be a combination.

The prefix is placed at the start of a word to modify its meaning.

The root is the main part of the word.

The suffix is placed at the end of the root, also to modify the meaning.

For example, the word Gastroenteritis can be broken down into a prefix ‘gastro’, a root word ‘enter’, and a suffix ‘itis’:

Gastro – stomach

Enter – intestines

Itis – Inflammation

Through this breakdown, we can understand that Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small intestine.

Doctors and medical health professionals also make use of abbreviations to quickly communicate information. Have you ever noticed your doctor scribble something down after your consultation, only to find you can’t make sense of their notes? Well – abbreviations and acronyms are commonly used as shorthand, either for instructions on prescribed medication, to describe test results, or to quickly refer to medical conditions or parts of the body.


Medical terminology is quite vast, but we’ve listed some of the most common medical terminology prefixes, suffixes root words and abbreviations for you below. These alone will help you interpret hundreds of medical terms.


a(n) absence of

ante before

anti against

aut(o) self

bi, bis double, twice, two

brachy short

brady slow

circum around, about

contra against, counter

dorsi back

dys bad, faulty, abnormal

end(o) inside

epi outer, superficial, upon

eu normal

extra outside

hemi half

hyper excessive, high

hypo deficient, low

infra beneath

inter among, between

intra inside

mal bad, abnormal

megal(o) large

peri around

poly much, many

post after

pseud(o) false

supra above

tachy fast, quick

Root Words

acou, acu hear

aden(o) gland

aer(o) air

alges(o) pain

andr(o) male

angi(o) vessel

ankyl(o) crooked, curved

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anter(i) front, forward

arteri(o) artery

arthr(o) joint

articul joint

ather(o) fatty

audi(o) hearing

aur(i) ear

bucc(o) cheek

carcin(o) cancer

cardi(o) heart

cephal(o) head

cerebr(o) brain

cervic neck

chol(e) bile, or referring to gall-bladder

chondr(o) cartilage

corpor body

cost(o) rib

crani(o) skull

cry(o) cold

cut skin

cyan(o) blue

cyst(o) bladder

cyt(o) cell

dactyl(o) finger or toe

dent tooth

derm(ato) skin

dipl(o) double

dors back

encephal(o) brain

enter(o) intestine

erythr(o) red

gastr(o) stomach

gloss(o) tongue

glyc(o) sweet, or referring to glucose

gyn woman

hem(ato) blood

hepat(o) liver

hist(o) tissue

hydr(o) water

hyster(o) uterus

iatr(o) doctor

lact(o) milk

lapar(o) flank, abdomen

latero side

leuk(o) white

lingu(o) tongue

lip(o) fat

mamm(o) breast

mast(o) breast

melan(o) black

mening(o) membranes

my(o) muscle

myc(o) fungus

myel(o) marrow

nas(o) nose

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necr(o) death

nephr(o) kidney

neur(o) nerve

nutri nourish

ocul(o) eye

odyn(o) pain

onc(o) tumor

oophor(o) ovaries

ophthalm(o) eye

orchi(o) testes

osse(o) bone

ot(o) ear

path(o) disease

ped(o) child

phag(o) eat, destroy

pharmaco drug

pharyng(o) throat

phleb(o) vein

pneum(ato) breath, air

pneumon(o) lung

pod(o) foot

poster(i) back, behind

presby elder

proct(o) anus

psych(o) mind

pulmon(o) lung

pyel(o) pelvis of kidney

pyr(o) fever, fire

rachi(o) spine

ren(o) kidneys

rhin(o) nose

somat(o) body

spondyl(o) vertebra

steat(o) fat

steth(o) chest

stom mouth, opening

therm(o) heat

thorac(o) chest

thromb(o) clot, lump

tox(i) poison

vas(o) vessel

ven(o) vein

vesic(o) bladder

xer(o) dry


algesia sensitivity to pain

algia pain

derma skin

ectomy excision (removal by cutting)

emia blood

gen become, originate

gram, graph write, record

itis inflammation

lys(is) dissolve

malacia soft

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oma tumor

opia vision

opsy examination

osis condition

ostosis condition of bone

pathy disease, emotion

penia deficient, deficiency

peps, pept digest

phob(ia) fear

plasty repair

pleg(ia) paralysis

pnea breathing

poie make, produce

rhag break, burst

rhe flow

sclerosis hardening

scope instrument

scopy examination

sten(o) narrow, compressed

therapy treatment

tomy incision (operation by cutting)

uria urine

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These are just a few of the commonly used medical abbreviations you might come across.

a.c.: Before meals.

(Video) Ch 3 Medical Terminology

a/g ratio: Albumin to globulin ratio.

ACL: Anterior cruciate ligament. Ad lib: At liberty.

AFR: Acute renal failure

ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

b.i.d.: Twice daily.

bld: Blood.

Bandemia: Slang for elevated level of band forms of white blood cells.

Bibasilar: At the bases of both lungs.

BKA: Below the knee amputation.

BP: Blood pressure.

C&S: Culture and sensitivity, performed to detect infection.

C/O: Complaint of. The patient’s expressed concern.

cap: Capsule.

Ca: Cancer; carcinoma.

CABG. Coronary artery bypass graft.

CBC: Complete blood count.

H&H: Hemoglobin and hematocrit.

H&P: History and physical examination.

h.s.: At bedtime. As in taking a medicine at bedtime.

I&D: Incision and drainage.

IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease.

ICD: Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

LCIS: Lobular Carcinoma In Situ.

LBP: Low back pain.

LLQ: Left lower quadrant.

N/V: Nausea or vomiting.

Na: Sodium.

O.D.: Right eye.

O.S.: Left eye.

O.U.: Both eyes.

P: Pulse.

p¯: After meals. As in take two tablets after meals.

p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.

q.d.: Each day. As in taking a medicine daily.

q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.

T: Temperature.

T&A: Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy

t.i.d.: Three times daily. As in taking a medicine three times daily.

tab: Tablet

TAH: Total abdominal hysterectomy

THR: Total hip replacement


If you’re confused by a word, it might be because it’s written in plural form. It’s worth getting to grips with the ten rules of singular and plural in medical terminology.

RuleEndingTo make pluralExample
Rule 1Terms that end in “a”Add “e”vertebra (singular), vertebrae (plural)
Rule 2Terms that end in “is”Change it to “es”.diagnosis (singular), diagnoses (plural)
Rule 3Terms that end in “ex” or “ix”Replace with “ices”cervix (singular), cervices (plural)
Rule 4Terms that end in “on”Replace it with “a”criterion (singular), criteria (plural)
Rule 5Terms that end in “um”Replace it with “a”bacterium (singular), bacteria (plural)
Rule 6Terms that end in “us”Replace it with “i”bronchus (singular), bronchi (plural)
Rule 7Terms that end in “itis”Replace it with “itides”.arthritis (singular), arthrides (plural)
Rule 8Terms that end in “nx”Replace it with “nges”.phalanx (singular), phalanges (plural)
Rule 9Terms that end in “y”Replace it with “ies”.therapy (singular), therapies (plural)
Rule 10Terms that end in “x”Replace it with “ces”thorax (singular), thoraces (plural)


There is definitely no shortage of books on the subject of medical terminology. Here is a handful of the most popular books available to buy:

For Everyday Use

Medical Terminology: A Short Course by Davi-Ellen Chabner

Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary by Elizabeth Martin

For Students and Professionals

The Language of Medicine, 11th Edition by Davi-Ellen Chabner

Medical Terminology: The Best and Most Effective Way to Memorize, Pronounce and Understand Medical Terms by David Andersson

Medical Terminology for Health Professions by Ann Ehrlich

MeDRA or the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities is an internationally recognised resource, used specifically in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s available in an array of languages including English, Japanese, French, Russian, and Chinese.


It’s probably obvious to you by the way it sounds, that medical terminology finds its origins in ancient Latin and Greek. According to the National Institutes of Health, the oldest recorded medical writings are those of the ancient Greek Hippocrates, also called the ‘father of medicine’, dating back to the 5th century BC. Another significant figure whose writing are still used was the Greek doctor Galen. When Rome conquered Greece, both cultures and languages merged and from this came new terminology for medical concepts and treatment. All of this was written by hand and passed down through history.

During the Renaissance, many Latin words were used to describe the human body. Apart from Greek and Latin, numerous other languages have made their contributions to medical terminology over time, including Arabic, Chinese, Gaelic, Dutch, Italian, German, French and Spanish.


Medical terminology is initially confusing, but with a bit of patience you’ll quickly become familiar with the way it works and what even the most complex words are referring you. This knowledge is useful for understanding some of the most common ailments that you may well experience in your lifetime, or if you’re working with medical texts.

The medical language we inherited from ancient civilisations is still in use today. Prefixes, root words and suffixes, that form the basis of all medical words, usually find their origin in ancient Greek and Latin.

(Video) Paramedic 2.01 - Medical Terminology: Medical Terminology

There are many online and offline resources for understanding medical terminology – from general guides to use at home covering basic medical terminology, to industry-recognised books and dictionaries for practitioners and medical professionals. Among the options we’ve listed here, you should find something that fits your needs.

If you need help with Medical translations, we offer professional services within the fields of Medicine and Medical Technology. Contact us to book a free consultation.


What is the most comprehensive medical vocabulary in the world? ›

With >344,000 unique medical concepts and 90,000 synonyms or alternative descriptions, SNOMED-CT is considered to be the most comprehensive clinical vocabulary that can be used to report and represent medical information.

How many medical terms are there in total? ›

Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms - MedicineNet

Our doctors define difficult medical language in easy-to-understand explanations of over 19,000 medical terms.

What are the basic medical terminology? ›

This list contains some common medical abbreviations and acronyms: AC: Ante cibum, or "before meals," indicating when a patient should take medication. ADR: Adverse drug reaction. ALOC: Acute loss of consciousness. BMI: Body mass index, a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.

Where can I find medical terminology? ›

Here are some resources that will help you find more in-depth information on the medical topics and terms you will be covering in your studies.
  • Merck Manual for Health Professionals. ...
  • Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary. ...
  • Medical Terminology Dictionary. ...
  • Free Online Dictionary.
27 Sept 2022

How do you memorize medical terms? ›

Super Easy Tips to Learn Medical Terminology
  1. Using visual cues to remember complex terms.
  2. Practicing terms using apps for iOS and Android.
  3. Deciphering terms by learning basic Latin components (root, suffix, prefix)
  4. Bulk learning using self-made acronyms.
  5. Using engaging guides and workbooks.
  6. Taking free online classes.

What is the best medical terminology dictionary? ›

Best Medical Dictionaries For Nurses
  • Mosby's Medical Dictionary.
  • Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary.
  • Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary.
  • The Language of Medicine.
  • Medical Terminology Workbook.
  • Medical Terminology Simplified.
  • Medical Terminology Systems.
  • Medical Terminology For Dummies.
22 Dec 2020

What are the 5 basic word parts of medical terminology? ›

Medical terms are built from word parts. Those word parts are prefix , word root , suffix , and combining form vowel .

What is HR medical term? ›

HR: Heart rate, expressed as beats per minute.

What is AZ in medical terms? ›

azo- (ā'zo, az'ō), Prefix denoting the presence in a molecule of the group ΞC-N=N-CΞ. Compare: diazo-.

Can I teach myself medical terminology? ›

One way to learn medical terminology is by creating your own acronyms. You can do this by taking one letter of each word or a group of related words, and forming a single new word or a phrase. It may take a little bit to actually come up with the acronyms, but in the end, it will save you a lot of time.

What are the 3 general rules of medical terminology? ›

There are three basic parts to medical terms: a word root (usually the middle of the word and its central meaning), a prefix (comes at the beginning and usually identifies some subdivision or part of the central meaning), and a suffix (comes at the end and modifies the central meaning as to what or who is interacting ...

What does IR mean in medical terms? ›

Therapeutic and Diagnostic Specialty. Interventional Radiology (IR) originated within diagnostic radiology as an invasive diagnostic subspecialty. IR is now a therapeutic and diagnostic specialty that comprises a wide range of minimally invasive image-guided therapeutic procedures as well as invasive diagnostic imaging ...

What does R F mean in medical terms? ›

Definition. Rheumatoid factor (RF) is a blood test that measures the amount of the RF antibody in the blood.

What does LX mean in medical terms? ›

List of medical abbreviations: L
LWBSleft without being seen
Lx of chlaxative of choice
115 more rows

What does a G stand for? ›

A/GAbove Ground
A/GAssemblies of God (Church Denomination)
2 more rows

How do you teach medical terminology in a fun way? ›

Medical Terminology Pictionary - Students draw pictures and try to identify the correct term. Medical Terminology Relay Race - Learners correctly identify medical terms before running to the next station. Funny Stories with Medical Terms - Students learn common abbreviations by writing short stories with med terms.

How hard is it to learn medical terminology? ›

The trouble is that medical terminology courses are often dense, dry, and difficult to understand, no matter the instruction medium. Too often, they rely solely on rote memorization to teach the subject matter.

Why is medical terminology hard? ›

Firstly, the increase in scale and complexity are enormous. Secondly, the resulting scale exceeds what can be managed manually with the rigour required by software, but building appropriate rigorous representations on the necessary scale is, in itself, a hard problem.

What is the best medical dictionary online? ›

Medical Dictionaries
  • Harvard Medical Dictionary. Glossary including 1,500 medical terms produced by Harvard Health Publishing. ...
  • Merck Manuals. ...
  • Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary. ...
  • OpenMD Medical Dictionary. ...
  • Stedman's Online. ...
  • Taber's Medical Dictionary. ...
  • TheFreeDictionary: Medical. ...
  • U-Mich Plain Language Medical Dictionary.

Which dictionary is best for medical students? ›

Bestsellers in Medical Dictionaries
  • #1. Mathematics Dictionary (Pocket Book) ...
  • #2. Merriam Webster Thesaurus. ...
  • #3. Nurses Dictionary. ...
  • #4. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, Deluxe Edition (Dorland's Medical Dictionary) ...
  • #5. Pocket Book-Zoology Dictionary. ...
  • #6. ...
  • #7. ...
  • #8.

How do you say medical terminology words? ›

Medical Terminology, Shortcuts for Pronunciation - YouTube

What are 4 fundamental elements of a medical term? ›

Most medical terms can be broken down into one or more word parts. There are a total of four different word parts, and any given medical term may contain one, some, or all of these parts. We will classify these word parts as: (1) roots, (2) prefixes, (3) suffixes, and (4) linking or combining vowels.

How do you teach a medical terminology class? ›

Medical Terminology Teaching Tips
  1. Develop chapter pretests. ...
  2. Encourage students to pronounce terms out loud in context. ...
  3. Offer multimedia-rich course materials. ...
  4. Use flashcards for memorization. ...
  5. Let students teach. ...
  6. Customize the curriculum to student learning.
8 May 2019

Which component do all medical terms have? ›

All medical terms have a root word. They may also have a prefix, a suffix, or both a prefix and a suffix. Prefixes have a droppable "o", which acts to connect the prefix to root words which begin with a consonant.

What is HBD medical term? ›

Hemoglobin C; abnormal hemoglobin. HBcAg. Hepatitis B core antigen. HBD. hydroxybutyric dehydrogenase.

What does HBA stand for? ›

HBAHonours Bachelor of Arts (degree)
HBAHonors Business Administration
HBAHorse Blood Agar (microbiological media)
HBAHealth & Beauty Aid
38 more rows

What is HD medical? ›

What Is HD? Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities usually during their prime working years and has no cure.

What does Q HS mean? ›

every hour. q.h.s. quaque hora somni every night at bedtime.

What is the Gravida? ›

Definition of gravida

: a pregnant woman —often used with a number to indicate the number of pregnancies a woman has had a gravida 4.

What are words associated with health? ›

  • fitness,
  • healthiness,
  • heartiness,
  • robustness,
  • sap,
  • soundness,
  • verdure,
  • wellness,

What is ESL medical term? ›

extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (also ESL) (see lithotriptor)

What are the words associated with hospital? ›

synonyms for hospital
  • clinic.
  • emergency room.
  • hospice.
  • institution.
  • nursing home.
  • ward.
  • infirmary.
  • sanatorium.

How many questions and how much time is permitted for the medical spelling Round 1 written test if Round 1 is a written test what is Round 2 for medical spelling? ›

6. Test Instructions: The written test will consist of 50 multiple choice items in a maximum of 60 minutes. 7.

What are the 20 vocabulary words? ›

Full list of words from this list:
  • erbium. a trivalent metallic element of the rare earth group. ...
  • nanometer. a metric unit of length equal to one billionth of a meter. ...
  • transdermal. through the unbroken skin. ...
  • yttrium. ...
  • hypodermic needle. ...
  • wavelength. ...
  • epidermal. ...
  • tensile strength.

What is a fancy word for wellness? ›

The quality or state of being in good health. health. wellbeing. healthiness. soundness.

What's another word for good health? ›

Some common synonyms of healthy are hale, robust, sound, well, and wholesome. While all these words mean "enjoying or indicative of good health," healthy implies full strength and vigor as well as freedom from signs of disease.

What does EC stand for medical? ›

Enteric-Coated (EC)

What does EC mean in nursing? ›

The Extended Class is for RNs who have additional education and clinical experience that allows them to practise as Nurse Practitioners. Members in this class have an expanded scope of practice that gives them the authority to diagnose, prescribe medication, perform procedures, and order and interpret diagnostic tests.

What does e/f mean medical? ›

The ejection fraction (EF) formula equals the amount of blood pumped out of the ventricle with each contraction (stroke volume or SV) divided by the end-diastolic volume (EDV), the total amount of blood in the ventricle. To express as a percentage, you would multiply by 100. So, EF = (SV/EDV) x 100.

What is ICU full form? ›

ICU (Intensive Care Unit) is a special room for critical patients who needs intensive treatment and continuous observation.

What is D opposite of hospital? ›

What is the opposite of a hospital? A resort: a place for relaxation or pleasure.

Which language is the first language of medical terminology? ›

The basis for medical terminology, however, has remained the same. The majority of medical terms are based in the Latin or Greek language.

What word part means gland? ›

Body Parts and Disorders
adren-, adreno-gland
angi-, angio-blood vessel
ateri-, aterio-artery
arthr-, arthro-joint
105 more rows

What are good spelling bee words? ›

Spelling bee word list
teach3t, ea, ch
63 more rows
17 Jul 2020


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