"Medical terminology is the professional language of those who are directly or indirectly engaged in the art of healing." (Frenay & Mahoney, 1998)

origin of medical terms 

When you understand the structure of medial terms, you can "decode" the terms into their parts and derive the meaning quite easily.

Why is vocabulary so important?

Words carry meaning. In an academic text, the majority of the words will be content-laden words — words that are specific to the discipline and carry the meaning in the text. See an example of medical text without these content words to illustrate just how important it is to know the words.

Parts to Know

  • Root (stem): The foundation of the word that can be combined with a prefix and/or suffix.
  • Prefix: A letter or group of letters placed before a root to modify the root's meaning.
  • Suffix: A letter or group of letters placed after a root to modify the root's meaning.
  • Combining form: This is a root with a combining vowel attaching. O is the most common combining vowel (e.g., lip/o-)






Combining Form



Word Part

hyper- lip o protein -emia


excessive fat protein blood condition

Hyperlipoproteinemia is a blood condition of excessive amounts of fat and protein.

Additional Resources