Medical prefix: A prefix employed in medical terminology. Medical words are often put together, cobbled from two or
more building blocks. Among these building blocks are the prefixes.
Examples of prefixes used in medicine include:
- a-: Prefix much employed in the health sciences indicating "not, without, -less" as, for examples, in
alexia (not read),
aphagia (not eat), aphonia (not voice, voiceless). The "a-" usually becomes "an-" before a vowel as, for example, in
anemia (without blood),
anotia (no ear),
anoxia (no oxygen). The prefix "a-" comes from the Greek meaning "not."
- ab-: Prefix from the Latin meaning "from, away from, off" as in
(movement of a limb away from the midline of the body),
ablate (carry or cut away),
abnormal (away from normal), absorb (to suck away).
"Abs" in the
plural is slang for the abdominal muscles.
- ad-: Latin prefix meaning "toward" and "in the direction of" (among other
things), As, for example, in adduction (movement of a limb toward the
midline of the body),
adrenal (toward the kidney).
- alb-: Prefix from the Latin root for the color white,
"albus." As in
albino and albinism. The term "albino" was first applied by the Portuguese to "white" people they encountered in West Africa. Those "white" people probably had partial or complete albinism, an inherited lack of pigment
in the skin, hair, and eyes.
- colpo-: A combining form usually used as a prefix from
the Greek "kolpos"
meaning a fold, cleft, or hollow, often in reference to the
incorporating colpo- include colposcopy (examination of the
with a colposcope) and colpotomy (incision of the
- dextro-: From the Latin "dexter" meaning on the right
side. For example, a
molecule that shows dextrorotation is turning or twisting
to the right. The
opposition of dextro- is levo- (from the Latin "laevus"
meaning on the left
side) so the opposite of dextrorotation is
- dia-: Prefix taken straight from the Greek meaning
completely as in diagnosis and dialysis.
- entero-: Combining form pointing to the intestine (the
from the Greek word "enteron" for intestine, related to the
meaning "within." What went into the intestine was within
- hetero-: Combining form from the Greek "heteros"
meaning different. The
opposite is homo- which comes from the Greek "homos"
meaning same. For
example, heterogeneous and homogeneous, heterosexual and
- homo-: Combining form from the Greek "homos" meaning
"same." The opposite
hetero- from the Greek "heteros" meaning "different." For
example, there is
heterogeneous and homogeneous, heterosexual and homosexual,
- hyper-: Means high, beyond, excessive, above normal.
hypercalcemia is high calcium in the blood and
oversensitivity. The opposite of hyper- is hypo-.
- hypo-: Prefix meaning low, under, beneath, down, below
normal. For example,
hypocalcemia is low calcium in the blood and
undersensitivity. The opposite of hypo- is hyper-.
- iatr-: Prefix relating to a physician or medicine. From
the Greek word
"iatros" meaning physician (healer). As in iatrogenic,
physicians, due to the activity of doctors.
- kerato-: Kerato- is a confusing since it can refer to
the cornea (as in
keratitis and keratocornea) or to "horny" tissue (as in
- leuko-: Prefix meaning white from the Greek "leukos",
white. As in
a white cell (in the blood). Leuko- and leuco- are the same
different spellings. A leukocyte = a leucocyte. And
leucemia = leukemia, a
malignant disease of the white blood cells.
- levo-: From the Latin "laevus" meaning on the left
side. For example, a
molecule that shows levorotation is turning or twisting to
the left. The
opposition of levo- is dextro- (from the Latin "dexter"
meaning on the right
side) so the opposite of levorotation is
- litho-: Prefix meaning stone. A lithotomy is an
operation to remove a
Lithotripsy involves crushing a stone. The stone may be in
in the urinary tract.
- macro-: From the Greek "makros" meaning large or long.
Terms with "macro-"
include macrocyte (large cell), macroglossia (large
(visible with the naked eye), and macrosomia (big body).
The opposite of
"macro-" is "micro-."
- mega-: From the Greek "megas", great or big and means
Megalocephaly is too large a head. Megacardia is too large
is too large a colon.
- melan-: Prefix meaning dark or black. It comes from the
Examples of terms containing melan- include melanin (dark
melanocytes (cells that make melanin), and melanoma (a
tumor arising in
- micro-: From the Greek "mikros" meaning small. Examples
of terms involving
micro- include microcephaly (small head), micropenis,
microscope, etc. The opposite of "micro-" is of
- neo-: New. From the Greek "neos", new, young, fresh,
recent. Examples of
starting with "neo-" include neonatal and neonate
(newborn), neoplasia and
neoplasm (new growth = tumor), etc.
- oligo-: Means just a few, scanty. From the Greek
"oligos" that likewise
few, scanty. Appears in oligodactyly (few fingers),
little amniotic fluid) and oligospermia (too few
- onycho-: Having to do with the nails. Medical terms
include onychodystrophy (abnormal growth and development of
onychomycosis (fungal infection of the nails), and
(malformation of bones and nails).
- osteo-: Combining form meaning bone. From the Greek
in osteoarthritis, osteogenesis (building of bone),
(inflammation of bone and marrow), osteopetrosis (stonelike
osteoporosis, osteosarcoma, etc.
- oto-: Combining form meaning ear. From the Greek "otos"
pertaining to the
ear. Appears for example in otitis (inflammation of the
(an ENT doctor), otoscope (a device for looking in the
- patho-: Derived from the Greek "pathos" meaning
"suffering or disease."
Patho- serves as a prefix for many terms including pathogen
pathogenesis (development of disease), pathology (study of
corresponding suffix is -pathy.
- phlebo-: Means vein. From the Greek "phleps", vein,
which came from the
"phlein", to gush or overflow. Appears in phlebitis
(inflammation of the
veins), phlebotomist (a person who draws blood from veins),
- pneumo-: Combining form pertaining to breathing,
respiration, the lungs,
pneumonia, or air. "Pneumo-" is derived from the Greek
air, or breath. In French, a "pneu" is a tire (so called
because it contains
- poly-: From the Greek "polys", many. The prefix "poly-"
appears in many
medical terms including polyarteritis, polycystic, polyp,
etc. Poly is short
for polymorphonuclear leukocyte (a type of white blood
- pro-: A combining form (from both Greek and Latin) with
including "before, in front of, preceding, on behalf of, in
place of, and
same as." Used as a word, pro of course means professional
and, in medicine,
it is short for prothrombin.
- quasi-: Prefix meaning seemingly. As, for example, in
- toc-: From the Greek word "tokos" meaning childbirth,
we have toc-, toco-,
tok-, and toko- as combining forms, all referring to labor
or childbirth. A
tocolytic agent inhibits the uterine contractions.
- trans-: From the Latin meaning "across, over, or
beyond." Medical terms
containing "trans- " are many: transfusion, transplant,
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Medical prefix: A prefix employed in medical terminology. Medical words are often put together, cobbled from two or more building blocks. Among these building blocks are ...
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prefix, root, suffix: meaning: example: a-, an-without, lack of, absence of: aseptic, anaerobic, anesthetic, analgesic: aden(o) gland, glandular tissue: adenitis, adenocarcinoma
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