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