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All Essential Medical Terms in One Place

All Essential Medical Terms in One PlaceLet’s face it, there’s a mountain of medical terms to learn. Whichever area you work in, some medical words you’ll just have to understand. But nobody wants to swallow a medical dictionary to do it.

Our list of the medical terms you need to know includes essential medical definitions, but helps you identify a quicker path to learning them. Understand first how to memorize medical terminology and the rest will come easily.

Call it your medical terminology cheat sheet if you like, but as healthcare students get ready for their final tests and exams, this list helps up your knowledge, fast.

How to Study Medical Terminology: Start at the Root

First of all, let’s look at the root of some important medical terms. Often, once you have a handle on these, the rest will come easily.

We use affixes all the time in everyday language without even thinking about it. They change the meaning of the original word: A prefix (in front of a word) or suffix (at the end) can put an unknown word into perspective. For example, words beginning with “aden-” or “adeno-” always relate to the glands.

Here are some more medical terminology prefixes:

Brachi/o – Arm
– Heart
Cyt/o Cell
Derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o Skin
Encephal/o – Brain
Gastr/o – Stomach
Hemat/o Blood
Hist/o, histi/o Tissue
Intestin/o – Intestine
Lapar/o Abdomen, loin or flank
My/o Muscle
Neur/o Nerve
Ocul/o Eye
Ophthalm/o Eyes
Or/o Mouth
Ot/o Ear
Pulmon/o Lungs

And for those of you who aren’t up on your Latin:

Mono/uni – One
Bi – Two
Tri – Three

Ab – Away from
Ad – Toward
Ecto/exo – Outside
Endo – Inside
Epi – Upon

Structure: Getting to the Ends

Learning Medical Terminology Structure

Here are some examples of common medical terminology with suffixes:

Pain terms end with -algia.
Blood terms end in -emia.
Inflammation is -itis.
A breaking down is -lysis.
Relating to disease is -opathy.
Breathing terms end with -pnea.

When you understand where common medical terminology stems from, it’s far easier to know where or what a term refers to.

Basic Medical Terminology List

Now that word formation makes more sense, we can move onto specific terms and common language used in healthcare. Although this list isn’t exhaustive, it can still be used as the basis for a quickfire medical terminology test to see how you do.

Allied health workers have all manner of different motivations for joining healthcare. Yours will be unique, too. However, there are umbrella terms and departmental definitions that link them all together. Here are some examples:

Anatomy: Parts of the body and its general structure.

Gynecology: Study and treatment of the female urinary tract and reproductive organs.

Hematology: Treatment of blood diseases and malignancies.

Microbiology: Related to bacterial and viral infections.

Neonatal: Special care for newborn babies with high dependency needs.

Neurology: Related to the disorders of the brain, spinal cord, or general nervous system.

Oncology: Chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

Pathology: The names for disorders and diseases.

Pediatrics: Medical assistance of infants.

Psychiatry: The study and treatment of mental disorders.

Rheumatology: Related to musculoskeletal disorders (bones, joints, muscles, etc.).

Surgery: Physical operative procedures.

Urology: Related to problems with the bladder and kidneys.

Key Parts of The Body

Key Parts of The Body

Photo of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man by Luc Viatour /


The work of each healthcare department naturally specializes in a different part of the body. To understand general medical records, learning the medical term for each of these is vital. Here are some to get you started:

Abdominal – Abdomen
Cranial – Skull
Digital – Fingers and toes
Femoral – Thigh
Gluteal – Buttock
Inguinal – Groin
Lumbar – Loin
Mammary – Breast
Nasal – Nose
Pectoral – Chest
Thoracis – Chest
Ventral – Stomach

Medical Dictionary Descriptions

Descriptions for what is happening to patients in both diagnosis and general conversation are the same across the board. Learn the meanings and you’ll progress much faster.

Here are some common descriptive words when talking about patients and circumstance:

Abatement: A reduction in severity of symptoms.

Abiotic: Not related to living organisms.

Abortive: Cutting short the course of a disease.

Abrasion: Friction wearing away of the top layer of skin.

Abruption: A sudden breaking away or breaking off.

Accessory: Extra or supplementary to the main element.

Ambulatory: Ability to walk.

Analgesia: Loss of pain where pain would normally be evident without loss of consciousness.

Benign: An abnormal growth that is not life-threatening.

Cavity: Hollow space in the body containing one organ or more.

Compression: To apply pressure to stop bleeding or prevent further injury.

Etiology: The cause of a certain condition.

Exacerbation: Deterioration of a condition.

Hematemesis: Blood in vomit.

Iatrogenic: A condition that appears as a result of treatment of another condition.

Idiopathic: Of unknown cause.

Intractable: Difficult to cure or alleviate.

Referred pain: Pain that is felt in another area to the original source of this pain.

Reflux: Going in a backward direction.

Remission: Disappearance of signs of disease.

Stimulus: Elicits a physiological response.

Subcutaneous: Just beneath the skin

Syndrome: A set of symptoms that indicate towards a certain condition, disease or abnormality.

Your Own Medical Terminology Study Guide

Over the course of a career, healthcare professionals will specialize in a variety of different areas, and the definitive medical terminology list may change between these.

However, one of the most important tools students can arm themselves with is a quick method for learning.

If you haven’t uncovered your personal learning style yet, check out “Learn Medical Terminology the Easy Way” to help you study, as exam time approaches.

38 thoughts on “All Essential Medical Terms in One Place

  • Tony Casey says:

    Fantastic! I’ve been looking for something simple like this for an ESL student who is working in the medical area. Congratulations!

  • Tracy Al-Khtaebeh says:

    I just started studying for my nurses test and this was very helpful. Thank you so much.

  • J.venkaresan says:

    What causes loose motion

  • Roy sebastian says:

    Really useful for ordinary man

  • Hi says:

    How do you perform a hemispherectomy and have the person live

    • merlin jessey says:

      A neurosurgical procedure that removes or disconnects the epileptogenic CEREBRAL CORTEX of a hemisphere. Hemispherectomy is usually performed for patients with intractable unilateral EPILEPSY due to malformations of cortical development or brain lesions. Depending on the epileptogenic area in the hemisphere, cortical removal can be total or partial.

  • Vivitha says:

    Useful for ma further studies

  • Akia Sia says:

    I want to be a doctor someday so this can help me with my studies I’m grade six and I study hard to make my dream come true and I suggest you make an app for this, it will be useful for most of the people

  • Bhagya Jayasinghe says:

    Very useful even for a medical student.

  • cece says:

    this was very helpful. I am a 8th grader who loves watching Grey’s Anatomy and wants to take up a career in the medical field. So these terms were very helpful and i Learned alot. Thanksssss .

  • Anne says:

    This helped me a lot because I’m only in middle school but I have always wanted to be a nurse or doctor and I want to start taking notes early so I know it when I am in college thank you son much for making this website

  • kalaiammu says:

    Its very useful for my job.

  • floresmin umbican says:

    i was studying the care giving and my teacher give the assignment about medical term its more helpful to me all i can see her

  • Nancy says:

    These make more sense, now that I know the descriptions for what is happening to patients, it is much easier for me to interpret. Thank you, great resources!

  • Juan Esquivel says:


  • Sheri Arthur says:

    This was a wonderful tool to refresh my knowledge and to help me learn a couple new terms.

  • Margarita Soublette says:

    Thank you for this information, very helpful

  • muntazir says:

    its really very helpful thank u soo much

  • little red riding hood says:

    I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field. However the same thought goes through my head, will I achieve my lifelong dream. I’m turning 16 in a couple weeks and I have always wanted to be a surgeon. I would always want to help the people I knew were suffering. For nearly about 10 years I have had this dream. Many of my friends think I’m a bit over the top, and you know what I don’t blame them. I’m not a straight A’s kid, I don’t have the perfect life but it’s about how much I want it. The best advice someone has ever told me was if you want something that bad go for it, don’t let it come to you. If you really want to achieve it but no one thinks you can prove them wrong.
    So that’s exactly what I want to do, I want to prove them wrong. I have pretty much been in a hospital every year, you could even say I lived there. However it’s never for me. My mum is always in there, and if you really want to know something. They actually have no idea what’s wrong with her, and because they don’t know what’s wrong with her they send her home to only be there the next day so then they give her pain killers. It irritates me so much, like you have a patient that is in pain and in need of help why send her away. This is one of my motives to become a surgeon so I can help those who won’t be helped.

    • Shattered Ice says:

      Best of luck with your dream! I am 15 and I also want to pursue a medical career as either a doctor or a surgeon. I have watched my mother suffer from loosing all the people closest to her from illness that was caught to late, including my father and my grandfather. I hope that I can help in the future so no one has to go through what she did. All of the illnesses were simple enough to treat/cure with no major risks. I really wish you the best of luck with your mothers health and I hope she is doing well. I’m curious what type of surgeon you would like to be. Who knows maybe in the perfect future we can work together haha.

  • Foday Sheriff says:

    This terminology is very essential for medical or nursing students

  • Nyo Win says:

    Great help

  • Million says:

    I will be glad to use this di9ctionary for I am health professional including being field epidemiologist as well as general practitioner rendering health service for needy.

  • Henry P. Nyandebo says:

    Well educative. Thanks

  • Everline kemunto says:

    Thank you so much this is so helpful

  • Prince Edward says:

    It actually help me in my nursing assignment thanks alot

  • Dharun says:

    Thank u for this quick reference

  • Grace says:

    I’m looking to go into the medical field. I’m not able to take classes at the moment so for now I’m just going to do some research. I’ve been looking for something simple like this cus I never knew where to start.

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