A suffix dictionary for biology and medicine
EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD
About Medical Suffixes
This dictionary is a section of Suffix Prefix Dictionary, one of the most comprehensive online dictionaries of biological and medical suffixes and prefixes. The suffix lists accessed from the links above provide definitions, examples, and etymologies for a wide variety of suffixes used in biology and medicine. Many of the examples are cross-linked to their definitions in the biology dictionary on this website. To find the meaning of a suffix, click on its first letter in the table (you can, of course, also search the suffix dictionary by clicking on the link "Search for a suffix >>"). Many of the more common biomedical suffixes are listed below (with links to their definitions).What is a Suffix?
A suffix is a letter or series of letters attached to the end of a word, word base, or prefix to produce a derivative word with a new meaning. There are many suffixes used by biologists in constructing scientific names and terminology. For example, in the word termitary, the suffix -ary, meaning connected with or belonging to, is attached to the end of the word termite (after dropping the e). So a termitary, a mound where termites live, is a place belonging to termites.
In general, the suffixes used in constructing scientific terminology and med terms are either of Latin or Greek derivation. In constructing these terms, nearly always, a Latin prefix goes with a Latin suffix, and a Greek prefix goes with a Greek suffix.
When a biological or medical suffix beginning with a consonant is added to a stem or prefix ending with a consonant, a vowel, usually -o-, is added as a connector.
Biological and medical terms of Greek or Latin origin ending in -a regularly drop the -a before a suffix beginning with a vowel:
pleura + -al = pleural
urea + -ic = ureic
lamina + -ectomy = laminectomy
If you learn the various biological and medical suffixes and prefixes, you won't be overwhelmed trying to memorize the innumerable polysyllabic words that you'll meet with in your courses. Soon you'll even find that you're understanding many words without looking up their definitions. Many, many biological and medical terms can be constructed from the relatively short list of prefixes and suffixes defined in this dictionary. As you become more familiar with them, you may end up making up some words yourself!
Medical Suffixes — the Internet's most comprehensive medical and biological suffixes list!