Medical Prefixes for Position & Special Prefixes

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  • 0:01 Prefixes
  • 1:07 Position Prefixes
  • 2:53 Uncategorized Prefixes
  • 6:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

In this lesson, we are going to discuss the prefixes that let you know the position of the subject in the medical term. We will also learn prefixes that don't fit into any particular category.


There are so many prefixes that help to make up the language of medicine. They are an important word part since they can be used to help narrow down the meaning of a medical term to make the meaning more specific. Prefixes may indicate time, size, location, amount, or position. They may also bring specification by negating the meaning of the term. A small subset of prefixes exist that don't fit into any category.

At first glance, you may think that location and position are the same thing. There is a difference in medical terminology though. The location tells where you can find the subject of the term in relation to other structures in the body. For instance, stating that something is in front or behind something else.

Position tells the orientation or specific part of the subject of the term. For instance, stating that something is on the left side of the body or that something is to the left. We're going to learn about prefixes that tell position as well as the prefixes that don't fit into any particular category.

Position Prefixes

Have you had the experience of trying a new restaurant that had great reviews, but when you got there, you thought the food and service was not all that it was cracked up to be? You may have decided to describe this place as mediocre at best! You chose this term because it means that something was kind of in the middle of the road. It wasn't great and it wasn't horrible. It was just there, right smack in the middle.

The reason why mediocre has this meaning is because it contains the prefix medi- meaning 'middle.' In medical terms, the prefix medi- appears in medial. Medial means 'pertaining to the middle of' since the suffix -al means 'pertaining to.' This term is normally used in conjunction with other terms. An example of this is 'medial plane.' This denotes the middle plane of an object or the body in the case of medical terminology.

It is possible that instead of the middle, you want to discuss the right or left of a structure in the body. There are prefixes that help make this specification. The prefix levo- means 'left.' This is seen in terms such as levopulmonary and levorenal. Levopulmonary and levorenal would mean 'left lung' and 'left kidney,' respectively.

To describe the right or right side of a body structure you would use the prefix dextr-. One of the most common terms that uses this prefix is dextrocardia. This term is used to define a condition where the heart is on the right side of the body. Now notice this time that the prefix tells orientation of the heart. The orientation is different from the normal orientation of being on the left side of the body.

Uncategorized Prefixes

Let's see if we can relate to some of these other prefixes. Ever realized about halfway through your day that you forgot to put deodorant on and now you don't smell so good? If not, perhaps you have had that night where you just kept waking up to go to the bathroom. Maybe due to lack of sleep, you experienced a day where you had difficulty functioning. Well, there are prefixes along with other word parts to describe each of these situations.

The prefix mal- means 'bad.' This prefix can be used to make the term malodorous, which means 'bad odor.' This is what happened that day that you forgot to put on deodorant. You may have been malodorous. Mal- may appear in another term such as malnephrotic. This term means 'bad kidney.'

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