Prefixes

The ability to break down medical terms into separate components or to recognize a complete word depends on the mastery of the combining forms (a stem or root with an "o" attached), roots or stems that appear in medical terms, and prefixes and suffixes that alter or modify meaning and usage of a term.

Prefixes, the most frequently used elements in the formation of Greek and Latin words, consist of one or more syllables (prepositions or adverbs) placed before words or roots to show various kinds of relationships. They are never used independently, but when added before verbs, adjectives, or nouns, they modify the meaning. Most prefixes are a part of words in ordinary speech and do not refer specifically to medical or scientific terminology, but many occur frequently in medical terminology. The prefixes used in medical terminology follow.

Prefix Meaning Examples
a-,
an-
Without, not lack of Aphasia (without speech)
Anemia (lack of blood)
ab-ab- Away from Abductor (leading away from)
Aboral (away from mouth)
ad- To, toward, near Adductor (leading toward)
Adrenal (near the kidney)
ambi-,
ampho-
Both Ambidextrous (ability to use hands equally)
Amphogenic (producing young both sexes)
amphi- On both sides, double Amphibious (living both on land and in water)
Amphithymia (dual mental state of depression and elation)
ana- Up, toward, apart Anatomy (to cut apart)
Anacatharis (vomiting up)
ante- Before, in front of,
forward
Antecubital (before elbow)
Anteflex (to bend forward)
anti- Against, opposing Anticarious (against cavities)
Antisepsis (against infection)
ap-,
apo-
Separation from,
derived from
Apobiosis (death of a part)
Apocleisis (aversion to food)
aut-,
auto-
Self Autoanalysis (self analysis)
Autoerotism (sexual self love)
bi- Two, double, twice Biarticulate (double joint)
Bifocal (two foci)
cata- Down, under, lower,
against
Catabolism (breaking down)
Catalepsy (reduced movement)
circum- Around Circumflex (winding around)
Circumarticular (around joint)
co-,
* com-,
Ü con-

With, together Commissure (coming together)
Conductor (leading together)
contra- Opposed, against Contralateral (opposite side)
Contraception (prevention of conception)
de- Down, from Dehydrate (remove water from)
Decay (break down)
di- Two, twice Dicephalous (two headed)
Dichromic (having two colors)
dia- Between, through, apart,
across, completely
Diaphragm (wall across)
Diapedesis (ooze through)
Diagnosis (complete knowledge)

dis- Apart or free from Disinfection (infection)
Disarticulation (separation at a joint)
Dissect (cut apart)

dys- Difficult, bad, painful Dyskinesis (difficult motion)
Dyspepsia (bad digestion)
Dyspareunia (painful coitus)

e-,
ec-,
ex-

Out of, from, away from Enucleate (remove whole from)
Exostosis (outgrowth of bone)
Ectopic (out of place)
Ectal (on the surface)


ect-,
ecto-,
exo-

Outer, outside,
situated on
Ectoderm (outer skin)
Ectocystic (outside of cell)
Exogenic (originating outside)

em-,
** en-
In Empyema (pus in)
Encranial (in the cranium)
end-,
endo-,
ent-,
ento-


Within, inner Endaural (within the ear)
Endocranial (within cranium)
Entiris (inner eye color)
Entocele (internal hernia)


ep-,
epi-
Upon, on, over Epicostal (upon a rib)
Epidermis (outer skin layer)
Eponychia (infection over the nail bed)

eu- Normal, good, well,
healthy
Eucrasia (normal health)
Eublastic (healing well)
extra-,
extro-
Outside of, beyond,
outward
Extraoral (outside of mouth)
Extroversion (turning inside out)
hemi- Half Hemiepilepsy (epilepsy on one side of body)
Hemilingual (half of tongue)
hyper- Excessive, above,
beyond
Hyperactive (overactive)
Hypertension (above normal blood pressure)
hyp-,
hypo-
Under, deficient, beneath Hypalgia (reduced pain sense)
Hypothyroidism (deficiency of thyroid activity)
im-,
ÜÜ in-
In, into, within Implant (insert into)
Injection (forcing fluid into)
im-,
Ü in-
Not Immature (not mature)
Involuntary (not voluntary)
infra- Below, beneath Infraorbital (beneath eye)
Infracostal (below a rib)
inter- Between Intercostal (between ribs)
Internodal (between nodes)
intra- Within Intracardiac (within heart)
Intraocular (within the eye)
intro- Into, within Introversion (turning inward)
Introrsus (turned in)
mes-,
meso-
Middle Mesencephalon (midbrain)
Mesonasal (middle of nose)
meta- Change, beyond Metachrosis (color change)
Metabasis (disease changes)
micr-,
micro-
Small Micracoustic (faint sounds)
Microbe (minute organism)
mult-,
multi-
Many Multiangular (many angles)
Multiform (many shapes)
neo- New, recent Neoblastic (new tissue growth)
Neonatal (newborn)
pan- All, entire Panacea (cure-all)
Pantalgia (entire body pain)
para- Beside, beyond, after Paracardiac (beside the heart)
Paracyesis (pregnancy outside the uterus)
per- Through, excessive Permeable (may pass through)
Peracute (excessively sharp)
peri- Around Periosteum (around bone)
Peribulbar (around eye bulb)
poly- Many, much, excessive Polycystic (many cysts)
Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
post- After, behind Postoperative (after surgery)
Postocular (behind eye)
pre-,
pro-
Before, in front of Prenatal (before birth)
Project (throw forward)
pseud-,
pseudo-
False Pseudarthrosis (false joint)
Pseudocyesis (false pregnancy)
re- Again, backward Reflex (bend back)
Regurgitation (vomiting)
retro- Backward, behind Retrograde (going backward)
Retrolingual (behind tongue)
semi- Half Semiconscious (partly aware)
Seminormal (half normal)
sub- Under, beneath Subcutaneous (under the skin)
Subungual (under the nail)
super-,
supra-
Above, superior, excess Superactivity (overactivity)
Suprarenal (above kidneys)
sym-,
** syn-
Together, with Symmelia (fusion of limbs)
Synclinal (bent together)
trans- Across, through Transection (cut across)
Transaortic (through aorta)
ultra- Beyond, excess Ultravirus (very small virus)
Ultrasonic (beyond upper limit of human hearing)


* co- before a vowel Ü com- before b, m, and p
** em- before b, m, and p ÜÜ im- before b, m, and p
*** sym- before b, m, p, and ph

REFERENCE

Austrin M.G. and H.E. Austrin. 1991. Learning Medical Terminology . ed. 7. Mosby, St. Louis.


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