Knowing a few medical suffixes (& medical prefixes) can help you make sense of hundreds of medical terms.
Some of these suffixes identify medical procedures. (See -scopy: an exam, or -ectomy: surgical removal.)
Others tell you something about a condition. (Examples: -algia: pain in the _______, -emia: related to blood.)
Others make a word into a noun or adjective.
In the lists below the suffix is listed first, then its meaning and some examples with meanings.
(Pay attention to the prefixes and roots in the examples too, as they may be used with other suffixes on the quiz.)
Look through these suffix lists. Then see how many word meanings you can guess on the suffix quiz at the bottom of the page.
(Note that sometimes it’s necessary to add an o- before the suffix to make the complete word sound better.)
Suffixes for Medical Conditions
- -ac, -al, -ary (also –ic and –ous) – related or pertaining to (the ending makes a word into an adjective): cardiac (related to the heart), renal (relating to the kidneys), coronary (related to the arteries surrounding the heart like a crown)
- -algia—pain: analgesic (taking away pain), myalgia (muscle pain), neuralgia (nerve pain)
- -cyte—a cell (also a prefix): leukocyte (white blood cell), monocytes (large leukocytes with a single nucleus)
- -emia- related to blood (also a prefix): anemia (absence or shortage of blood), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), polycythemia (condition of many red blood cells—the cyt is for cell, as above)
- -genic —producing or produced by (from genesis—origin); erythrogenic (producing redness, or producing red blood cells), neurogenic (originating in a nerve), thrombogenic (causing thrombosis- blood clotting)
- -genous – producing or produced by/originating in: endogenous (originating within the body or a cell), exogenous (originating outside the body)
- -ic – related or pertaining to: arthritic (related to inflamed joints), gastric (related to the stomach), hemolytic (the breaking down of red blood cells, leading to a release of hemoglobin), septic (infected, relating to infection—sepsis)
- -itis – inflammation: appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix), arthritis (inflammation of the joints), encephalitis (inflammation inside the head), hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), neuritis (inflammation of the nerves)
- -megaly—enlargement: cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), hepatomegaly (enlarged liver)
- -morph—form or shape: polymorphic (appearing in many forms)
- -oma-- tumor, swelling: carcinoma (a cancerous tumor), hematoma (a large blood-filled swelling), melanoma (a “black tumor”—a deadly type of skin cancer)
- -osis—condition or disease state: kyphosis (abnormal spine curvature—hunchback), necrosis (condition of death of that tissue), psychosis (mental illness)
- -ous—related to: cancerous (related to cancer), infectious (related to or able to cause infection), nutritious (related to nutrition), subcutaneous (related to tissues below the skin surface)
- -pathy (can also be a prefix)-- suffering, disease: neuropathy (nerve disease or damage), psychopathic (related to a mental illness)
- -penia—deficiency: glycopenia (sugar deficiency), leukopenia (shortage of white blood cells), thrombocytopenia (low number of blood platelets)
- -phage, phagia—eating: dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), macrophage (large white blood cell that “eats” bacteria and other pathogens)
- -plasia – growth or formation: erythroplasia (a type of reddish precancerous growth), hyperplasia (unusual growth)
- -plegia—paralysis, loss of the ability to move: hemiplegia (paralysis of half of the body), quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs)
- -rrhagia-- flow: hemorrhage (excessive flow of blood out of the body), menorrhaghia (heavy or increased menstrual flow)
- -trophy—growth, development: atrophy (no growth, withering), hypertrophy (growing too much), phototropic (growing toward light)
Suffixes for People & Fields of Study
- -ist—person with this skill: generalist, psychiatrist, specialist (see –logist)
- -logy—the study of: hematology (the study of blood)
- -logic—related to the field of: hematologic (related to blood and its study)
- -logist—person who has studied this: cardiologist (a heart doctor), dermatologist (a skin doctor), urologist (a doctor specializing in the urinary system)
Suffixes for Tests & Treatments
- -ectomy—surgical removal: appendectomy (removal of the appendix), cholecystectomy (removal of the gall bladder), hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), mastectomy (removal of a breast), thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid)
- -gram—record: angiogram (record/picture of blood vessels), electrocardiogram (record of heartbeat patterns), mammogram (breast x-ray picture)
- -lysis, -lyze-- separate, break apart: analyze (to separate into parts for closer examination), dialysis (artificial cleansing of the blood as it flows through a machine), urinalysis (examination of the component parts of the urine)
- -plasty—surgical repair or rebuilding: angioplasty (widening of obstructed arteries), osteoplasty (repair of bone), rhinoplasty (repair and rebuilding of the nose)
- -scope, -scopy—look at: bronchoscope (an instrument that looks at the bronchii of the lungs), colonoscopy (using a tube with a camera at the end to examine the colon), endoscopy (looking inside a hollow organ with a lighted, flexible tube and camera), stethoscope (an instrument used for listening to the heart, lungs, and other internal organs)
- -stomy—creating an opening (related to the prefix stoma—mouth): colostomy (removal of part of the colon and creation of an artificial opening for excretion), tracheostomy (making an opening in the trachea/windpipe)
- -tomy—cutting into, incision: craniotomy (cutting into the skull—cranium), laparatomy (a large incision into the abdomen), vagotomy (cutting into the vagus nerve)
Medical Suffixes (& Roots) Quiz
Match the words with medical suffixes on the left with the meanings in the drop-down menu on the right. The first is done for you.
(These words were not given in the examples above, but they are made from medical suffixes, as well as prefixes and roots, that were given.)
Could you guess most of these words from their parts? These medical suffixes are quite common. They should help you understand much of the medical terminology you encounter.
You might want to learn other common medical prefixes, if you haven’t studied them already. See also the medical terms in Basic Medical Vocabulary, and Medical Words and Symptom Vocabulary.
Here's a site where you can practice medical terminology with free online matching games. (It's designed for the general public.)
Home> Medical English> Medical Suffixes.
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