What Are Some Common Prefixes and Suffixes in Medical Terminology?

Some common prefixes in medical terminology are “hemi,” “hypo” and “intra,” and some common suffixes are “ology,” “itis” and “osis,” notes the National Cancer Institute. Knowing the most common prefixes, suffixes and roots can help people better understand complicated medical terms. For example, if patients know that “cardi” means “heart” and “ologist” means “to specialize in,” they know that a cardiologist is a heart specialist.

The prefixes “hemi,” “hypo” and “intra” mean “half,” “under” and “within,” respectively. Examples of words using these prefixes are “hemiplegia,” “hypodermic” and “intramuscular.” The suffixes “ology,” “itis” and “osis” mean “study of,” “inflammation of” and “condition of,” respectively. Word using these prefixes include “pulmonology,” “appendicitis” and “cyanosis,” notes Des Moines University.

There are three main combinations of words in medical terminology, notes the National Cancer Institute. Words can be created using a root and suffix, prefix and root or prefix, root and suffix. An example of a word formed using a root and suffix is “carcinoma,” which is a synonym for cancer. This is formed from the root “carcino,” which means “crab” and suffix “oma,” which means “tumor.”

Another word for cancer, “neoplasm,” is formed from the prefix “neo,” which means “new,” and the root “plasm,” which means “growth.” A medical term using a prefix, root and suffix is pericarditis, which is formed by the combination “peri,” “card” and “itis.” This word means “inflammation around the heart.”

In some cases, a word may be created by combining two roots. One example is “biostatistics,” which uses the roots “bio,” which means “life” and “statistics,” which means “numerical facts.”