Super Easy Tips to Learn Medical Terminology
Does learning medical terminology feel like a tedious chore? Are you staying in on Fridays or Saturdays pouring over your medical dictionary just to find that you only remember five terms the next morning?
Whether you’re a medical student or studying to get a healthcare certificate, you simply cannot skip this part of your education. If you aspire to be a true professional you absolutely have to learn the language of medicine.
The truth is that learning medical terminology is not an impossible feat — most people simply have the wrong approach. The good news is that by honing the most effective memorization techniques and using proven resources, you can easily best your peers and turn learning into an effortless, even pleasant, task.
In this post, you’ll learn about:
- Using visual cues to remember complex terms
- Practicing terms using apps for iOS and Android
- Deciphering terms by learning basic Latin components (root, suffix, prefix)
- Bulk learning using self-made acronyms
- Using engaging guides and workbooks
- Taking free online classes
1. What’s Medical Terminology Without the Visuals?
You will immensely improve your learning curve if you simply associate an image with each term, which will act as a cue when trying to recall the word.
Our brains are hardwired to save most information as images. This is why when someone says the word “apple” a visual representation of the fruit immediately pops up in your head…. most people don’t visualize the letters spelling the word.
But if we take the word “subhepatic” (definition: situated under/on the ventral side of the liver), it would be really hard for your brain to assign a visual to that word. The trick here is to give your mind something simple and familiar which you can associate with the term, no matter how strange the path.
A Visual Memorization Tip for Effective Learning:
Let’s examine the word “ginglymoid” (definition: pertaining to or shaped like a hinged joint, such as a knee or elbow). Here’s a tutorial for memorizing this term from a popular memory improvement tips site:
Step 1. Choose a phrase that summarizes the definitions of “ginglymoid.” In this case, that can be simply “hinged joint.” Now you need to connect these two in your mind.
Step 2. Break the word phonetically into syllables. Forget about the spelling. Focus and listen to the sounds of the syllables. The word “ginglymoid” is pronounced “jing-lei-moyd”. Consider how it sounds to you. Say it out loud slowly.
Step 3. Figure out what real-life words sound like these syllables.
It sounds like “jingly mud”. (You should use the phrase that pops into your own mind.) For jingly mud, a memorable image could be jingle bells stuck in mud. You’re trying to pull them out, but the mud is thick. Your elbows hurt trying to pull it out.
Step 4. Try to clearly visualize a picture with these items in your mind. What’s the color of the ribbon? What type of metal are the bells made of? Visualize the brown, thick mud and sore elbows.
The key here is to create an image that is silly, gigantic and unrealistic. The mind forgets the ordinary. It’s the unusual that gets remembered!
Step 5. Now when you read or hear the word “ginglymoid”, the sound of the syllables of that word will make you think of “jingly mud”. When you picture the image you just created, you’ll know that this terms means “hinged joints.”
If you’ve pictured this image and engraved it deep in your visual memory, the sound will recall the crazy image of jingle bells stuck in the mud and sore elbows. Thus, you’ll be reminded that “ginglymoid” means a hinged joint such as the elbow.
2. Medical Terminology Games: Apps and Tools for Your Phone
YOU DON’T HAVE TO CARRY HEAVY BOOKS AND FLASHCARDS ALL THE TIME. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF iOS AND ANDROID APPS THAT CAN HELP YOU TRAIN YOUR MEMORY AND EXPLORE DIFFERENT LEARNING TECHNIQUES ON THE GO.
Here’s a list of some the best apps that can help you learn medical language:
APPS FOR IOS
MCAT Flashcards – Kaplan National Practice Test: You can create customized card sets choosing from 200 concepts in physics, general chemistry, biology, and organic chemistry.
Taber’s Medical Dictionary: Over 65,000 terms, 1,200 photos, 32,000 audio pronunciations, 100+ videos, and more than 600 patient-care statements.
Psych Terms: This medical dictionary is a pocket glossary for psychology, psychiatry and mental health.
Medical Terminology and Abbreviations: A list of abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes to help you understand complex medical terms.
Med Term Scramble: A free game that lets you test your knowledge of medical terms. Over 30 word lists to choose from. The app is also available for Android devices.
Eponyms (for students): A short description of more than 1,700 common and obscure medical eponyms.
APPS FOR ANDROID
Learn Medical Terminology: This app contains lists of prefixes, roots and suffixes. You’ll also discover links to other free interactive medical terminology exercises and e-learning courses.
Medical Terms EN: Learn the most common medical terms, diseases, tests and symptoms. Voice enabled search with word prediction and smart options let you narrow search results to abbreviations.
Medical Terminology Flashcards: You can create your own decks and cards or just use the pre-made ones.The app lets you mark cards as “correct” or “incorrect” to help track progress.
Medical Terminologies: Medical dictionary with common and uncommon words, terms and phrases. Works offline.
Medical Terminology Quiz: A multiple choice quiz. Twelve different topics covering the anatomy of the human body.
Med Term Scramble: A medical variation of Scramble with more than 30 different word lists. The app is also available for iOS.
3. Learn Latin Roots: Create Your Own Medical Terminology Cheat Sheet
The basic components of each term are: root word (the base of the term), prefixes (letter groups in front of the root word) and suffixes (at the end of the root word). If you break a word into its components you can easily decipher its meaning.
It is no secret that a lot of medical terms come from Latin or Greek. Most words are just too long and sound too alien to remember. Truth is, you don’t have to learn words one by one. In fact, most top teaching hospitals recommend that you don’t. You’ll be better off if you focus only on the common Latin or Greek roots, prefixes and suffixes instead.
When you know all the major building blocks of the medical language you can easily puzzle out the meaning of even the most complicated medical terms.
Example: Let’s look at the word “pericarditis” broken down into its components:
Medical terms can be formed using several combinations:
- root + suffix
- prefix + root
- prefix + root + suffix
Sometimes a word may contain more than one root. The term “bronchogenic” has 2 roots: “bronch” and “gen”, with an added “o” to ease pronunciation, and “ic” being the suffix at the end.
You can easily find lists of almost all medical roots, prefixes and suffixes and even various medical terminology cheat sheets. Just download them, keep them handy, and soon you’ll be on your way to deciphering any term that comes your way
4. Bulk Learning: Create Your Own Acronyms
You can memorize a group of similar or related words by creating acronyms. Just take one letter of each word and form a single new word or a phrase.
Creating acronyms yourself takes a little bit of imagination and creativity, but it’s extremely effective. To get started, just take your group of related words, look at their first letters and rearrange them to form something new that is easy to remember.
Example: Let’s say you want to memorize the causes of “erythema nodosum” (definition: inflammation of the fat under the skin). This condition is usually caused by drugs, infections, pregnancy, OCP, uicerative colitis or tuberculosis.
We take the initial letter of each cause and see if we can create a meaningful word or phrase (in this case, we already did that). Then we get the acronym: DIP OUT
You can create you own lists of acronyms for various purposes: groups of diseases, treatments, body parts, etc. Then you’ll have your own, self-made medical terminology study guide, tailored to your specific learning needs.
Of course, there are some officially recognized acronyms that you should explore as well.
5. Guides and Workbooks: Taking Learning to a Whole New Level
As an alternative to heavy medical books and dictionaries, you can explore a number of guides that provide you with the same information but in an extremely easy-to-understand way.
There are a few books that have been heavily optimized with the clear goal of not only teaching you the medical terminology, but also making sure you effectively memorize it.
Here are our top picks:
Medical Terminology for Dummies: This book will get you on track in no time, even if you’ve just started learning medicine. The language used is very engaging and even entertaining. The author was able to to turn a serious field like medicine into something fun and interesting to read about.
Medical Terminology: A Living Language: You’ll be amazed how effective this book is at delivering huge amounts of information, without giving you a headache or boring you to death. Another characteristic of “Medical Terminology: A Living Language” is that it won’t bombard you with outdated terms or words that you’ll probably never use. All the information has been carefully selected and cataloged.
Quick Medical Terminology: A Self-Teaching Guide: As the authors have put it: “it provides the tools necessary for building and sustaining a large working repertoire of medical terms”. The book offers a number of exercises and real examples that will help you train and develop your memory.
6. Free Online Classes
You can take a medical terminology online course on the internet for free.
Even if you study in medical school or another type of healthcare training institute, you can still supplement your knowledge by taking additional courses.
Here are some of the best free online programs you’ll find:
“Understanding Medical Words” (supported by the National Library of Medicine): Apart from providing you with definitions and explanations regarding different terms, you’ll also learn the most common abbreviations. Words are broken down to their Greek and Latin roots and most examples come with nice visuals. The course can also be downloaded and reviewed offline.
“Medical Terminology Course” (by Des Moines University): The course is divided into several sections with a quiz at the end of each lesson. Every lesson contains practical examples and additional information regarding the topic that is being examined. The language and tone used in the explanatory text are very light and easy to digest.
“Medical Terminology” (by SweetHaven Publishing Services): The lessons are presented in a flashcard format that gradually takes you through the different modules. This course if perfect not only for medicals students, but for hospital personnel and other healthcare workers. You can take the course at your own pace and skip through some sections if you wish.
For those of you who’d like to start a career in Allied Health Education, check out our wide variety of healthcare programs.