How dissecting words can help you be a pro in anatomical terminology | Kenhub

How dissecting words can help you be a pro in anatomical terminology | Kenhub

Ever seen a medical term that is so terrifying
that you feel like a fuzz-ugly grizzly bear is staring you right back in your face, feeling
horror at the thought of even pronouncing it – let alone understanding it? Well, you shouldn’t be. The ‘bear’ beyond this term is actually
about as terrifying as this ‘adowable’ teddy bear, once you find out what he’s about. So often we find ourselves caught in a standstill
dealing with overly complicated, tongue-twisting medical terminology. However, over the course of this information-packed
series on anatomical terminology, we’re going to be helping you to break the fear of falling
into terminological paralysis by mastering the language of each and every system of the
human body, teaching you that no matter how strange or complicated an anatomical term
may appear at first, it can be conquered by breaking it down into simple component parts. So, welcome to the second episode of the Kenhub
series, Anatomical Terminology for Healthcare Professionals. I’m sure you’ve heard that learning anatomy
is often coupled with the practice of human dissection. Well, let me give you your first tip in mastering
anatomical terminology. Anatomical terminology also involves its own
type of dissection – a dissection of words, though. Trust me. Learning how to break down anatomical terminology
is a great strategy for any healthcare professional, and is guaranteed to reduce complex and unmanageable
terms in more reasonable parts, removing the verbal obstacles faced by newcomers in the
field. In practical terms, this means taking advantage
of the following fact: Most anatomical terms are formed using two or three main word parts
or components. These are prefixes, roots, and suffixes – and
these elements retain their original or same meaning regardless of where they appear. Let’s look at these different types of word
elements. First up, we have the root of a term, which
is the basic unit of a medical or anatomical term. For example, ‘gastr/o’, with or without
the O at the end, which comes from the Greek word for belly or stomach ‘gaster’. It refers to the primary structure or body
system that the term is related to. The suffix is added after the root to change
or add to its meaning. For example, the suffix, ‘- pagus’, refers
to condition resulting in conjoined twins, and if we add this to our root word, we get
gatropagus – conjoined twins who are united at the stomach or abdomen. The prefix is a word part added before the
root to give additional detail or modification. Let’s take the example ‘hypo-‘ meaning
under or below. We can add it to our previous term to then
get hypogastropagus – twins conjoined at the hypogastrium or below the stomach. As I mentioned, the root of an anatomical
term refers to its related body system. So as we work through our series system by
system, we will be giving you particular focus to these types of word elements. Prefixes and suffixes, however, across all
system lines in that they can generally be used in connection with all types of body
structures, disorders, and processes, and it’s these types of word elements which we
will be giving you an overview of today. Let’s begin with some common suffixes used
in anatomical terminology, which are especially important in clinical practice, as they often
describe what is happening or being done to the root word in question. One of the most common types of suffixes are
those which refer to a medical condition or disease. For terms ending with ‘–ia such as pneumon-ia,
which essentially means inflammation of the lungs’; ‘–ism’ as in hyperthyroid-ism,
which is an overactive thyroid; ‘-sis’ like in osteoporo-sis, which is a condition
resulting in reduced bone density – and remember that ‘osteo’ means bone and ‘poros’
means pore; ‘-itis’ or ‘i-t-i-s’ like in peritonitis which is the inflammation of
the peritoneum. Or even just like the letter ‘-y’, for
example, syndactyl-y, which is the union of two or more digits – ‘syn’ meaning united,
‘daktulosus’ meaning digit. We also use suffixes to denote specialties,
or fields of interest, in almost every healthcare discipline such as a ‘-iatrics’ or ‘-iatry’
– a pair of interesting suffixes both derived from the Greek ‘iatros’ meaning doctor
or healer, and therefore, refers to a field of medical treatment like pediatrics or psychiatry. Another commonly seen suffix which I’m sure
you’re aware of is ‘-logy’ or ‘l-o-g-y’, meaning the study of something. For example, cardiology, the study of the
heart, and ‘kardia’ meaning heart in Greek. If we take this a step further, we can also
derive the names of specialists in these fields by adding the suffix ‘–ian’ or ‘–ist’,
as in pediatrician, psychiatrist, or cardiologist. Suffixes can also simply be used to indicate
something is related to or belongs to an anatomical structure or condition. For example, terms ending in ‘-ac’ as
in cardi-ac, ‘-al’ as in arteri-al, ‘-ar’ as in muscul-ar, ‘–ary’ as in pulmon-ary,
or ‘-ile’ as in febr-ile – ‘febris’ meaning fever in Greek. We also have ‘–ical’ as in surg-ical
– and all of these mean pertaining to in some way or another. Let’s move on now to some common prefixes
used in anatomical terminology. These are generally used to provide additional
description to the root-suffix combination – meaning they work to tell us more about
what’s present or what’s going on. Let’s look at some examples. First up are prefixes which provide numerical
detail such as ‘prim-’ or ‘prim/i-’ meaning first as in primi-para – a woman
who has given birth once; ‘mono-’ or ‘uni-’ which means one, an example of this is unilateral,
which means occurring on one side only; ‘semi-’ or ‘hemi-’ referring to half or one side
of something as we have in hemiazygos or semilunar; ‘bi-’ or ‘di-’ meaning two as we use
in muscles such as digastric, a muscle with two bellies; ‘tri-’ for three; ‘quadri-’
for four – an example of this is the quadriceps, a muscle with four heads; and ‘multi-’
or ‘poly-’ for many as we have in multinucleated, which is a cell with two or more nuclei. Prefixes can also denote the appearance of
something; for example, its color. ‘Cyan/o-’ denoting the color blue as we
have in cyanosis which is a bluish discoloration of skin due to poor circulation or oxygenation
of blood; for ‘erythr/o-’ which means red as we have in erythrocyte, a red blood
cell. Prefixes are also often used to give a negative
meaning to an anatomical term. For example, gonadogenesis is a process which
leads to the development of gonads or primary reproductive organs while gonadalagenesis
is a condition involving failure of the gonadal development. We can add the prefix ‘a-’ or ‘an-’
to suggest lack of, failure, or without. So next time you want to break up with someone,
just say, “Sorry, but I rather stay a-lone.” Another common negative prefix is ‘dys-’
or ‘d-y-s-’ which generally implies a condition resulting from a failed process
in the body. For example, dys-dipsia, ‘dys-’ as in
failure, ‘dipsia’ as thirst, which describes a difficulty in drinking; or dys-plasia, ‘dys-’
again as in failure, ‘plasia’ as in development, which can be related to a host of developmental
abnormalities. Many other negative prefixes which are widely
used in English are also used in anatomical terminology such as ‘anti-’ or ‘anti-’
depending on how you pronounce it; ‘in-’ or ‘i-n’; ‘im-’ or ‘i-m’. The other one is ‘non-’ or ‘un-’. The final category of common prefixes which
I want to look at now are those which add detail for either the position of the structure
and time relative to another event in the body. Some examples of these include ‘ante-’
which means before or in front of. For example, we have ante-natal which means
before birth. ‘Pre-’ or ‘pro-’ can also have similar
meanings. For example, pre-cancerous – a growth likely
to turn malignant, or pre-aortic – anterior to the aorta or a pro-cephalic – anterior
part of the head. The opposite of these prefixes, of course,
is ‘post-’ which refers to something after an event or behind another structure. For example, post-mortem which means after
death or post-cardial behind the heart. The Latin names ‘dexter’ and ‘sinister’
refer to the directions right and left and are often found in a prefix form when describing
position. For instance, dextro-cardia – the heart
positioned in the right side of the thorax; or sinistro-cerebral, pertaining to the left
cerebral hemisphere. Next up are the prefixes ‘ec-’, ‘ecto-’,
or ‘exo-’ – all of which suggests a position outside of or away from something. Examples of these include ec-topic as in Greek
‘ek’ means out and ‘topos’ means place which literally means out of place such as
an ec-topic pregnancy where implantation of a fetus occurs outside of the uterus. The opposite of these prefixes would be ‘endo-’
meaning inside or within. An endoscopy is a common procedure in which
a camera is placed inside the body for exploratory, diagnostic, or surgical purposes. Two last prefixes before we wrap this up,
and these are ‘meso-’ meaning middle and ‘tele-’ referring to the end of something
or something distant. For example, mesoderm is an embryonic cell
layer found between the ectoderm and endoderm layers while the teleneuron is another name
for a nerve ending found distant from the cell body. Okay, so I don’t know about you, but I think
we’ve done pretty well with our introduction to prefixes and suffixes today. Of course, what we’ve learned today – and
by no means exhaustive – there are lots and lots more prefixes and suffixes to be
discovered and explored. As we work through the systems of the body,
we will be continuously introducing you to new prefixes and suffixes as we go along,
so by the time you reach the end of this series, I guarantee you, you will be an absolute pro
at anatomical terminology. Now this course will help you become more
fluent in the language of anatomy, but there is a lot more to learn about the human body. So don’t forget to head over to
for a complete atlas of human anatomy, full of stunning images, and hundreds, I mean,
hundreds of complete articles so you master anatomy and histology. As we finish up, let’s set ourselves a little
challenge to see how we’ve done today. Why not take a shot at figuring out the meaning
of these terms which are based on some of the word elements we learned about today. Let us know your answers in the comments below. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel
and check out the next installment of our series on anatomical terminology for healthcare
professionals, where we will be getting to grips with the real bones of the situation
quite literally by exploring the language of the skeletal system. It’s going to be awesome! You just got ‘tibia’ there, get it?

7 Replies to “How dissecting words can help you be a pro in anatomical terminology | Kenhub”

  1. Hi everyone! Hope you enjoyed watching episode 2 of our Anatomical Terminology for Healthcare Professionals series. Don't forget to leave your answers for the question we asked on this video. If you're looking to continuing learning human anatomy, we have the right tools for you! Check out our main website where we cover the human body from head to toe: Have fun learning!

  2. Absolutely loved the video! Don't usually comment much but as a learning medical major I really appreciate and enjoy watching your videos and how in depth you go while keeping the information clear and concise! Keep up the good work!

  3. I cannot express how helpful this will be and how much all tonight I am going to be binge watching this series. I always tell people to learn to understand and not learn to memorize…this is pure help.

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