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Medical Terminology Basics:
Suffixes

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Medical Terminology Basics: Suffixes

Suffixes are the one or more syllables or elements added to the root or stem of a word (the part that indicates the essential meaning) to alter the meaning or indicate the intended part of speech.

In order to make a word pronounceable, the last letter or letters of the root to which the suffix is attached may be changed. The last vowel may be changed to an "o," or an "o" may be inserted if it is not already present before a suffix beginning with a consonant, as in "cardiology." The final vowel in the root may be dropped before a suffix beginning with a vowel, as in "neuritis."

Most suffixes are in common use in English, but there are some peculiar to medical science. The suffixes most commonly used to indicate disease are "itis," meaning inflammation; "oma," meaning tumor; and "osis," meaning a condition, usually morbid. The suffixes listed occur often in medical terminology, but they are also used in ordinary language.

You may also be interested in reviewing these Medword pages: Prefixes, USP Drug Listings, Basic Medical Terms, Examples of Transcribed Reports.

Suffix Use Examples
­ize, ­ate Add to nouns or adjectives to make verbs expressing to use and to act like; to subject to; make into Visualize (able to see); impersonate (act like); hypnotize (Put into state of hypnosis)
­ist, ­or, ­er Add to verbs to make nouns expressing agent or person concerned or instrument Anesthetist (one who practices the science of anesthesia); dissector (Instrument that dissects or person who dissects); donor (giver)
­ent Add to verbs to make adjectives or nouns of agency Recipient (one who receives); concurrent (happening at same time)
­sia, ­y, ­tion Add to verbs to make nouns expressing action, process, or condition Therapy (treatment); inhalation (act of inhaling); anesthesia (process or condition of feeling)
­ia, ­ity Add to adjectives or nouns to make nouns expressing quality or condition Septicemia (poisoning of blood); disparity (inequality); acidity (condition of excess acid); neuralgia (pain in nerves)
­ma, ­mata, ­men, ­mina, ­ment, ­ure Add to verbs to make nouns expressing result of action or object of action Trauma (injury); foramina (openings); ligament (tough fibrous band holding bone or viscera together); fissure (groove)
­ium, ­olus, ­olum, ­culus, ­culum, ­cule, ­cleAdd to nouns to make diminutive nounsBacterium; alveolus (air sac) follicle (little bag); cerebellum (little brain); molecule (little mass); ossicle (little bone)
­ible, ­ile Add to verbs to make adjectives expressing ability or capacity Contractile (ability to contract); edible (capable of being eaten); flexible (capable of being bent)
­al, ­c, ­iousAdd to nouns to make adjectives expressing relationship, concern, or pertaining to Neural (referring to nerve); neoplastic (referring to neoplasm); cardiac (referring heart); delirious ( suffering from delirium)
­id Add to verbs or nouns to make adjectives expressing state or condition Flaccid (state of being weak or lax); fluid (state of being liquid)
­tic Add to a verb to make an adjective showing relationship Caustic (referring to burn); acoustic (referring to sound or hearing)
­oid, ­form Add to nouns to make adjectives expressing resemblance Polypoid (resembling polyp); plexiform (resembling a plexus); fusiform (resembling a fusion); epidermoid (resembling epidermis)
­ous Add to nouns to make adjectives expressing material Ferrous (composed of iron); serous (composed of serum); mucinous (composed of mucin)

The list below covers just a few areas of interest that are, in fact, the foundations for learning the language of medicine - medical terminology.

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