Medical Suffix Meanings

Sometimes it can feel like medical terminology is a language all of its own. There are so many specialized medical terms that it can be difficult to understand all the jargon used in the doctor's office or to easily recall these long, difficult words for class. Understanding medical suffix meanings can help you figure out the full meaning of a tricky term, whether you're talking to your doctor or studying for a test.

Medical Suffix Meanings Medical Suffix Meanings

Fortunately, it's possible to decode unfamiliar medical and scientific terms. Many are combinations of common Greek and Latin prefixes, root words and suffixes. Learning the most common parts of medical terms makes it easier to figure out what a word means when you put the pieces together.

To allow you to understand more medical terms, it helps to certain medical suffix meanings. You won't be overwhelmed by the long words if you can readily identify parts of it. Many medical terms are made up with the same set of endings. This list of common medical suffixes will help you become more familiar with medical and scientific terms.

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Common Medical Suffixes Defined

Suffix

Meaning

Examples

-algia

pain

fibromyalgia, neuralgia

-cardia

of the heart

tachycardia, dextrocardia

-centesis

puncturing and draining

amniocentesis, pericardiocentesis

-cyte

cell

lymphocyte, splenocyte

-ectomy

surgery to remove

appendectomy, tonsilectomy

-emia

presence in the blood

anemia, hypoglycemia

-genic

causing

carcinogenic, pathogenic

-gram

recording

cardiogram, mammogram

-iatrics/-iatry

specialty

geriatrics, pediatrics, psychiatry

-itis

inflammation

arthritis, layrngitis, tendonitis

-lysis

deterioration or destruction

dialysis, paralysis

-ology

science of

necrology, pathology

-oma

swelling, tumor

blastoma, mesothelioma

-osis

condition, disease progress

diagnosis, prognosis

-otomy

surgical incision

lobotomy, tracheotomy

-oxia

oxygen level

anoxia, hypoxia

-pathy

disease

neuropathy, sociopathy

-phagia

swallowing

dysphagia, hyperphagia

-phasia

speech

aphasia, dysphasia

-philia/-philic

attraction to

hemophilia, hydrophilic

-phobia

fear

arachnophobia, agoraphobia

-plasty

surgical repair

angioplasty, rhinoplasty

-rrhea

flow, discharge

amenorrhea, diarrhea

-scopy

exam with an instrument

colonoscopy, endoscopy

Spelling Rules

Now you know your suffixes, remembering a couple of spelling rules will help you apply them correctly to root words:

  • When a medical suffix beginning with a consonant is added to a stem ending with a consonant, a vowel, usually -o-, is added as a connector, as in lymphocyte.
  • When a medical suffix beginning with a vowel is added to a stem ending in a vowel, the stem's vowel is dropped, as in appendectomy.
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Putting it all Together

Understanding the basic meanings of medical suffixes will help you decipher what your medical practitioner or professor is saying. In general, the prefix or root word will refer to the body part in question, and the suffix refers to a procedure, condition, or disease of that body part. By putting these terms together, you can better comprehend a condition or treatment.

You can learn more about Greek and Latin root words here.