From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Medical terminology is language that is used to accurately describe the human body and associated components, conditions, processes and process in a science-based manner. Some examples are: R.I.C.E., trapezius, and latissimus dorsi. It is to be used in the medical and nursing fields. This systematic approach to word building and term comprehension is based on the concept of: (1) word roots, (2) prefixes, and (3) suffixes. The 'rootword' is a term derived from a source language such as Greek or Latin and usually describes a body part. The prefix can be added in front of the term to modify the word root by giving additional information about the location of an organ, the number of parts, or time involved. Suffixes are attached to the end of a word root to add meaning such as condition, disease process, or procedure.
In the process of creating medical terminology, certain rules of language apply. These rules are part of language mechanics called linguistics. So, when a term is developed, some logical process is applied. The word root is developed to include a vowel sound following the term to add a smoothing action to the sound of the word when applying a suffix. The result is the formation of a new term with a vowel attached (word root + vowel) called a combining form. In English, the most common vowel used in the formation of the combining form is the letter -o-, added to the word root.
Prefixes do not normally require further modification to be added to a word root because the prefix normally ends in a vowel or vowel sound, although in some cases they may assimilate slightly and an in- may change to im- or syn- to sym-.
Suffixes are categorized as either (1) needing the combining form, or (2) not needing the combining form since they start with a vowel.
Decoding the medical term is an important process, (See: Morphology). Once experience is gained in the process of forming and decoding medical terminology, the process becomes easier. One approach involves breaking down the word by evaluating the meaning of the suffix first, then prefix, and finally the word root. This will generally produce a good result for the experienced health care professional. When in doubt, the result should be verified by a medical terminology dictionary. The process of learning any new language, such as medical terminology, is facilitated by learning basic rules.
One quick online reference is a dictionary search engine. The allows one to enter a medical term into a dialogue box and initiate a search. There are also numerous online medical dictionaries to select from. Once a term is located, the response will be subdivided into several basic formats, including General usage, Medicine, Law, Business, and others.
The use of a medical dictionary or Internet search engine is most helpful in learning the exact meaning of a medical term. However, if the basic concepts of word building are understood, many words are understandable to the student of medical terminology.
- Medical dictionary
- Medical slang
- International scientific vocabulary
- Classical compound
- Register (sociolinguistics)