A Basic Introduction To Medical Terminology

Onwusah Emmanuel
Mar 23, 2020   •  5 views

Definition and general overview

Medical terminology as a phrase refers to the language that is used to accurately describe or report the components, processes, conditions and procedures performed in relation to the human body and is used extensively in the medical field.

The world of medical terminology can be difficult for the uninitiated, that is, people who have little or no background in medicine or any of its' various related disciplines. But understanding them requires first of all, a basic knowledge of the language and it's structure and morphology. All medical terms have a common morphology and new words are often formed with an established base of prefixes and suffixes which are added to different roots to form various words with different meanings.

Medical conditions, organs and tissues are what the roots of a term usually refer to. An example of a word with a prefix and root is "diarrhea". It consists of two parts: "dia-" and "-rhein", which are the prefix and root and mean "through" and "to flow" respectively. Thus, the whole word refers to free-flowing movement of gastric fluids through the bowels.

Most of the time, the roots, prefixes and suffixes are derived from Greek or Latin terms which may be unidentical to the English derivatives. This enables a relative beginner to easily understand very precise terms once a satisfactory number of morphemes have been learnt. One of the major components of medical vocabulary is anatomical terminology, which has to do with the naming of various bodily parts.


Medical terminology often uses words that were created using Ancient Greek and Latin, as earlier stated. In medicine and its' various disciplines, such words, their meanings and etymology are often determined by the language from which they were derived. Nearly every medical term consists of at least two of the three parts, namely: roots, prefixes and suffixes. The root carries the meaning of the word and as such, is the core. The prefix is added before the root to modify or give more meaning to it. The word "diarrhea" , earlier mentioned is a good example. A particular term's meaning can also be modified by adding the appropriate suffix at the end of the word. As such, a particular root may have different prefixes and suffixes attached to it or removed from it, depending on the proposed meaning of the word.


The various terms in the medical field are commonly used by people who work in the medical and other related fields. It is thus very important for them, and the rest of us (those who don't really have much to do with medicine as a whole) , to understand and grasp the meaning and usage of keywords that are commonly used and which we might come across. This is because medical language, just like the lyrics to our favorite songs, will become familiar the more frequently we use and hear them. Misunderstanding or misinterpreting the words to a song will not cause a third of the problems that might arise if such mistakes are made in relation to a diagnosis or procedure.

If a case arises in which clarification needs to be sought with regard to a particular word or procedure, caution should be of utmost importance in order to make sure that no action, whether willfully or unknowingly, is taken that may be detrimental in the long run, until the information in question is clarified and handled accordingly.