Medical Terminology: Latin and Greek Roots

Now for some of the fun terms! These may be out of alphabetical order, so my apologies there. This is just a short selection of some common and interesting terms; more will come soon. These terms will also be re-organized when I finish the next two posts.


pachy-: A thickening of the skin - pachyderma is a thickening of the skin, and pachydermata is an obsolete class of mammals with thick skin…elephants and their close kin are still often referred to as “pachyderms” in non-scientific literature.

path(o)-/-pathy: Disease, pertaining to a disease or disorder (ex: pathologist, neuropathy)

pyro-/pur-: fever (from pyro - fire, but you probably already guessed that!) 

-exia/-exic: appetite, habit or state, to be in a condition

-mania: "Mental derangement characterized by excitement or delusion", craze, insanity, passion, spirit

dys-: abnormal, wrong, painful, difficult

-plasy: "development of"

phos-: Pertaining to light and its chemical properties (when not used in terms of phosphorescence, this is a nearly completely archaic root)

ec-/ex(o)-: Out, outside of, away from

myco-: Pertaining to fungus (don’t confuse with myo - pertaining to muscle, or myx(o)- pertaining to mucus!)

-oid: "Resemblance to" (ex: Mongoloid…the mentally deficient apparently looked like what people thought Mongols looked like)

para-: Along side of, abnormal

-pexia: Fixation upon

sangui-/sanguine: Pertaining to blood

sclero-/-sclerosis: Hardening, hardening of the skin

sinistr(o)-: left, left side (nice how “sinister” comes from the term for the left side, eh southpaws? ;D)

somat(o)-/somatico-: Body/bodily

tetan-: Stiff, rigid, tense

trans-: Denoting something as moving or situated “across” or “through”

-trophy: Nourishment, development

viscer(o)-: Pertaining to the internal organs, the viscera

sync-: "To be in agreement with"

-uria: Pertaining to urine

Further Reading/Sources:

Des Moines University Medical Terminology


Online Etymology Dictionary

Medical Etymology of Herpes

And, of course, Antiquus Morbis

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