First of all, let's look at the root of some important medical terms. Often, once you have a handle on these, the rest will come easily.
Now that word formation makes more sense, we can move onto specific terms and common language used in healthcare. Although this list isn't exhaustive, it can still be used as the basis for a quickfire medical terminology test to see how you do.
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Descriptions for what is happening to patients in both diagnosis and general conversation are the same across the board. Learn the meanings and you’ll progress much faster.
Over the course of a career, healthcare professionals will specialize in a variety of different areas, and the definitive medical terminology list may change between these.
Let’s face it, there’s a mountain of medical terms to learn. Whichever area you work in, some medical words you'll just have to understand. But nobody wants to swallow a medical dictionary to do it.
Our list of the medical terms you need to know includes essential medical definitions, but helps you identify a quicker path to learning them. Understand first how to memorize medical terminology and the rest will come easily.
Call it your medical terminology cheat sheet if you like, but as healthcare students get ready for their final tests and exams, this list helps up your knowledge, fast.
How to Study Medical Terminology: Start at the Root
We use affixes all the time in everyday language without even thinking about it. They change the meaning of the original word: A prefix (in front of a word) or suffix (at the end) can put an unknown word into perspective. For example, words beginning with “aden-” or “adeno-” always relate to the glands.
Here are some more medical terminology prefixes:
Brachi/o – Arm
Cardi/o – Heart
Cyt/o – Cell
Derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o – Skin
Encephal/o – Brain
Gastr/o – Stomach
Hemat/o – Blood
Hist/o, histi/o – Tissue
Intestin/o – Intestine
Lapar/o – Abdomen, loin or flank
My/o – Muscle
Neur/o – Nerve
Ocul/o – Eye
Ophthalm/o – Eyes
Or/o – Mouth
Ot/o – Ear
Pulmon/o – Lungs
And for those of you who aren't up on your Latin:
Mono/uni – One
Bi – Two
Tri – Three
Ab – Away from
Ad – Toward
Ecto/exo – Outside
Endo – Inside
Epi – Upon
Structure: Getting to the Ends
Here are some examples of common medical terminology with suffixes:
Pain terms end with -algia.
Blood terms end in -emia.
Inflammation is -itis.
A breaking down is -lysis.
Relating to disease is -opathy.
Breathing terms end with -pnea.
When you understand where common medical terminology stems from, it's far easier to know where or what a term refers to.
Basic Medical Terminology List
Allied health workers have all manner of different motivations for joining healthcare. Yours will be unique, too. However, there are umbrella terms and departmental definitions that link them all together. Here are some examples:
Anatomy: Parts of the body and its general structure.
Gynecology: Study and treatment of the female urinary tract and reproductive organs.
Hematology: Treatment of blood diseases and malignancies.
Microbiology: Related to bacterial and viral infections.
Neonatal: Special care for newborn babies with high dependency needs.
Neurology: Related to the disorders of the brain, spinal cord, or general nervous system.
Oncology: Chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
Pathology: The names for disorders and diseases.
Pediatrics: Medical assistance of infants.
Psychiatry: The study and treatment of mental disorders.
Rheumatology: Related to musculoskeletal disorders (bones, joints, muscles, etc.).
Surgery: Physical operative procedures.
Urology: Related to problems with the bladder and kidneys.
Key Parts of The Body
The work of each healthcare department naturally specializes in a different part of the body. To understand general medical records, learning the medical term for each of these is vital. Here are some to get you started:
Abdominal – Abdomen
Cranial – Skull
Digital – Fingers and toes
Femoral – Thigh
Gluteal – Buttock
Inguinal – Groin
Lumbar – Loin
Mammary – Breast
Nasal – Nose
Pectoral – Chest
Thoracis – Chest
Ventral – Stomach
Medical Dictionary Descriptions
Here are some common descriptive words when talking about patients and circumstance:
Abatement: A reduction in severity of symptoms.
Abiotic: Not related to living organisms.
Abortive: Cutting short the course of a disease.
Abrasion: Friction wearing away of the top layer of skin.
Abruption: A sudden breaking away or breaking off.
Accessory: Extra or supplementary to the main element.
Ambulatory: Ability to walk.
Analgesia: Loss of pain where pain would normally be evident without loss of consciousness.
Benign: An abnormal growth that is not life-threatening.
Cavity: Hollow space in the body containing one organ or more.
Compression: To apply pressure to stop bleeding or prevent further injury.
Etiology: The cause of a certain condition.
Exacerbation: Deterioration of a condition.
Hematemesis: Blood in vomit.
Iatrogenic: A condition that appears as a result of treatment of another condition.
Idiopathic: Of unknown cause.
Intractable: Difficult to cure or alleviate.
Referred pain: Pain that is felt in another area to the original source of this pain.
Reflux: Going in a backward direction.
Remission: Disappearance of signs of disease.
Stimulus: Elicits a physiological response.
Subcutaneous: Just beneath the skin
Syndrome: A set of symptoms that indicate towards a certain condition, disease or abnormality.
Your Own Medical Terminology Study Guide
However, one of the most important tools students can arm themselves with is a quick method for learning.
If you haven't uncovered your personal learning style yet, check out "Learn Medical Terminology the Easy Way" to help you study, as exam time approaches.