Medical terminology

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Medical terminology is a language used to precisely describe the human body including its components, processes, conditions affecting it, and procedures performed upon it. Medical terminology is used in the field of medicine, and clinical settings. This specialized vocabulary allows healthcare professionals to communicate with precision to avoid ambiguity in the diagnosis, treatment, and documentation of medical conditions.

Origins and Structure

Medical terminology has its roots in Latin and Ancient Greek, with the majority of terms being derived from these languages. This is because these languages were the lingua franca of the educated and scholarly when many of the foundational texts of medicine were written. The structure of medical terms includes prefixes, suffixes, and root words that describe specific medical aspects such as location, number, condition, process, or medical procedures.


  • Prefixes: Added to the beginning of a word to modify its meaning, such as location, time, or status.
  • Root Words: The base of the term that contains its primary meaning, often indicating a body part or system.
  • Suffixes: Added to the end of a word to modify its meaning, often indicating a procedure, condition, disease, or part of speech.


The primary purpose of medical terminology is to facilitate a universal language that ensures clear and consistent communication among medical professionals, thereby reducing errors. It also allows for a standardized language for medical education and research.


  • Diagnosis and Treatment: Precise terms describe diseases, conditions, and procedures, aiding in diagnosis and treatment.
  • Medical Records: Ensures accurate and clear documentation in patient records.
  • Research and Education: Facilitates learning and communication of complex medical concepts.

Learning Medical Terminology

Learning medical terminology involves understanding the meaning of prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Educational programs in medicine, nursing, and allied health professions dedicate significant time to the mastery of this language.

List of common medical terms

Related Terms

  • Anatomy: The study of the structure of the human body.
  • Physiology: The study of the function of the human body.
  • Pathology: The study of disease.
  • Pharmacology: The study of drugs and their effects on the human body.

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