Medical hatchet is language supplied to describe anatomical structures, procedures, conditions, processes, and treatments. While clinical terms may show up intimidating at an initial glance, when the an easy word structure is understood and the interpretations of some usual word facets are memorized, the meaning of thousands of medical terms have the right to be conveniently parsed.

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Most clinical terms adhere come a solved structure the a prefix, root, and suffix. This word contents are assembled like building blocks to create a substantial vocabulary.

Greeks are thought about the founders of rational medicine and also medical terms are primarily derived from Greek and also Latin.1 end centuries, the language of medicine has evolved into many national clinical languages. Today, medical English is the dominant language for global communication. Most prominent medical journals space written in English and also it has become the language of an option at international conferences.2

Basic Structure

Medical state are comprised of these typical word parts:

Prefix: once included, the prefix shows up at the beginning of a clinical term and also usually indicates a location, direction, type, quality, or quantity. Root: The root offers a hatchet its crucial meaning. Virtually all clinical terms contain at the very least one root. Once a prefix is absent, the term starts with a root. Suffix: The suffix shows up at the end of a term and may indicate a specialty, test, procedure, function, disorder, or status. Otherwise, it may simply define whether words is a noun, verb, or adjective. Combining Vowel: A combining collection (usually the letter “o”) might be added between word parts to assist in pronunciation.

Breaking a word down to that is component components should aid readers determine the an interpretation of an unfamiliar term. For example, hypothermia has actually the prefix hypo- (below normal), source therm (heat), and suffix -ia (condition).


Word Roots

A root is the foundational facet of any medical term. Roots frequently indicate a body part or system.

Common word roots:

brain enceph
ear ot, aur
eardrum tympan, myring
eye ophthalm, ocul
face faci
nose rhin
skull crani
tongue lingu
tooth odont, dent
Heart and also Circulatory
aorta aort
arteries arteri
blood hem, sangu
blood vessels angi
heart cardi
veins ven, phleb
Bones and Muscles
arm brachi
back dorsa
bones oste
foot pod, ped
muscles myo
rib cost
shoulder scapul
wrist carp
Digestive device
appendix append
colon col
esophagus esophag
intestine (usually small) inter
kidney ren, neph
liver hepat
stomach gastr
Other common Roots
cancer carci
drug chem
electric electr
heat therm
knowledge gnos
life bi
pressure bar
returned sound echo

Compound Words

A clinical word may encompass multiple roots. This commonly occurs as soon as referencing much more than one body component or system. Because that example, cardio-pulmo-nary means pertaining to the heart and lungs; gastro-entero-logy means the study of the stomach and intestines.

Combining Forms

When a source is complied with by an additional word component that begins with a consonant, a combining collection (usually the letter ‘o’) is added after the root (e.g. Neur-o-logy) to assist pronunciation. The root and also vowel with each other (e.g. Neur-o) are referred to as the combining form. For simplicity, combining vowel options are omitted from the word part tables.



A prefix modifies the definition of words root. The may suggest a location, type, quality, body category, or quantity. The prefix is optional and does not show up in all medical terms.

Common prefixes:

large macro-, mega(lo)-
small micro-
half semi-
half (one side) hemi-
one mono-, uni-
two | three | four bi- | tri- | quad(ri)-
equal equi-
many poly-
above normal hyper-
below normal hypo-
normal/good eu-
Time or rate
after post-
again re-
back/backward retro-
before pro-, pre-, ante-
fast tachy-
new neo-
time, long time chron-
slow brady-
place or partnership
away from ab-
above supra-
around peri-
across trans-
between inter-
out of, outside ex-, ec(t)-
self auto-
through, completely dia-
together con-
toward ad-
within, inside end(o)-
function or high quality
against anti-, contra-
bad mal-
cause eti-
self auto-
without a-, de-
abnormal, bad dys-


Medical terms always end through a suffix.3 The suffix usually shows a specialty, test, procedure, function, condition/disorder, or status. Because that example, “itis” means inflammation and “ectomy” means removal.

Alternatively, the suffix might simply make words a noun or adjective. The endings -a, -e, -um, and also -us are typically used to develop a singular noun (e.g. Crani-um).

Though the suffix shows up at the end of the term, it regularly comes very first in the definition. For example, appendicitismeans: inflammation (-itis) the the appendix.4 Accordingly, it is sometimes helpful to review unfamiliar medical terms from ideal to left.

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Occasionally, a clinical term might be consisted of of a prefix and also suffix. For example, apnea includes the prefix a- (without) and suffix -pnea (breathing).

Common suffix (letters in parenthesis space not always present):

straightforward Noun and Adjective suffix
(noun form) -a, -e, -um, -is
causing -genic
condition -ia, -ism, -sis, -y
specialty -iatry, -iatrics, -ics
specialist -ian, -ist
structure -um, -us
study of -logy
pertaining to -ac, -ar(y), -(e/i)al, -ic(al), -ior, -ory,, -ous, -tic
Tests and also Procedures
removal of -ectomy
image/record -gram
recording instrument -graph(y)
cut in -otomy
visual examination -scopy
opening -stomy
Pathology or function
blood (condition of) -emia
breathing -pnea
inflammation -itis
condition or disease -osis
deficiency -penia
disease -pathy
excessive flow -rrhag(e/ia)
mass, tumor -oma

Plural Forms

The enhancement of an “s” or “es” to the finish of a native is regularly the straightforward an approach to do a word plural in English and also many modern-day Romance languages. In clinical terminology, however, things space a little much more complicated. The plural kind of each word is based upon the last 2 letters of the singular suffix.

There are number of exceptions. Because that example, virus is a Latin term without a plural form. “Viruses” is the accepted plural form. Elsewhere, the suffix “s” or “es” has actually occasionally dominated in common usage. For example, the plural form of “hematoma” is “hematomas” fairly than “hematomata.”

Common singluar endings and corresponding plural endings:

many Forms5
Singular Plural
a ae
en ina
ex, ix, yx ices
is es
ma mata
(a/i/y)nx nges
um a
us i(i)

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