1 Identifying Word Parts in Medical Terms

Word Parts

Medical terms are built from word parts. Those word parts are prefix, word root, suffix, and combining form vowel. When a word root is combined with a combining form vowel the word part is referred to as a combining form.

Identifying Word Parts in Medical Terms

By the end of this resource, you will have identified hundreds of word parts within medical terms.  Let’s start with some common medical terms that many non-medically trained people may be familiar with.


Oste/o/arthr/itis – Inflammation of bone and joint.

Oste/o is a combining form that means bone
arthr/o is a combining form that means joint
-itis is a suffix that means inflammation

Intra/ven/ous – Pertaining to within a vein.
Intra- is a prefix that means within
ven/o – is a combining form that means vein
-ous is a suffix that means pertaining to

Notice, when breaking down words that you place slashes between word parts and a slash on each side of a combining form vowel.

Language Rules

Language rules are a good place to start when building a medical terminology foundation.  Many medical terms are built from word parts and can be translated literally. At first, literal translations sound awkward. Once you build a medical vocabulary and become proficient at using it, the awkwardness will slip away. For example, suffixes will no longer be stated and will be assumed. The definition of intravenous then becomes within the vein.

Since you are at the beginning of building your medical terminology foundation stay literal when applicable. It should be noted that as with all language rules there are always exceptions and we refer to those as rebels. So let’s begin by analyzing the language rules for medical terminology.



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Building a Medical Terminology Foundation Copyright © 2020 by Kimberlee Carter and Marie Rutherford is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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