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Formation of Medical Terms

The basic forms of medical terms, with examples of each, are described below. Of course, any particular medical term may take on an almost infinite variety of combinations of these three basic forms:

  1. Terms may be composed of a root + suffix.
    Medical Term Root Meaning Suffix Meaning
    carcinoma carcin(o) crab oma tumor
    sarcoma sarc(o) flesh oma tumor
    cerebral cerebr brain al pertaining to
  2. Terms may be composed of a prefix + a root.
    Medical Term Prefix Meaning Root Meaning
    neoplasm neo new plasm growth, formation
    biped bi two ped foot
    dysfunction dys difficult, painful function normal action
  3. Terms may be composed of a prefix + a root + a suffix.
    Medical Term Prefix Meaning Root Meaning Suffix Meaning
    hypoglycemia hypo under glyc sugar emia blood
    encephalitis en in cepahl head itis inflammation of
    pericarditis peri around card heart itis inflammation of
  4. Some medical terms are composed of two roots.
    Medical Term Root Meaning Root Meaning
    biostatistics bio life statistics numerical facts
    erythroblast erythr(o) red blast germ cell
    microfilm micr(o) small film

Click here for a series of exercises on the formation of medical terms.