Medical Prefixes to Indicate Front, Behind, Above, Below & Around

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  • 0:02 Prefixes
  • 0:50 Post- and Pre-
  • 2:33 Hyper- and Hypo-
  • 3:40 Other Prefixes for…
  • 4:52 Peri-
  • 5:34 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.

We will cover many prefixes that are used to indicate locations. The prefixes for front, behind, above, below and around will be discussed in this lesson.


The overall purpose of prefixes is to make the meaning of a medical term even more specific. Most prefixes can be put into different categories based on their meanings. Some prefixes tell time, amount, location, position, size, or negate what the rest of the term means. It is easiest to learn the prefixes by looking at each category and becoming familiar with the prefixes and examples of how they are used.

We are going to look at the prefixes that indicate location. In some instances more than one prefix has the same meaning so we'll look at those at the same time. Most location prefixes also have a prefix that means the opposite, so we'll look at opposites as well. This may help the many prefixes to stick in your head better.

Prefixes: Post- and Pre-

Let's suppose you need to explain that a structure is located behind another structure. Two prefixes are used to mean behind. They are post- and retro-. Retro appears in terms like retroperitoneal and retrohepatic. These terms 'mean behind the peritoneum' and 'behind the liver' respectively since peritoneal means pertaining to the peritoneum and hepatic means pertaining to the liver.

Post- is used in terms like posterior pituitary and postnasal drip. Posterior is a term meaning 'located behind' or 'pertaining to behind,' so the posterior pituitary is the part of the pituitary gland that is behind the anterior pituitary. Postnasal drip means 'drainage or dripping behind the nose.' This is the culprit that causes that awful sore throat when you have sinus drainage.

The opposite of behind is front or before, and there are two prefixes that mean 'front' or 'before' in medical terminology. Pre- and ante- mean front or before when indicating location. These prefixes show up in the terms prepuce and antecubital. Prepuce means 'skin in the front of the penis' or 'the foreskin of the penis.' The term antecubital means 'before the elbow,' due to the fact that cubit means elbow.

Special care must be taken with the prefixes post-, retro-, pre-, and ante- because these can all be used for denoting location as well as time. You will have to look at the entire term in order to determine how the prefix is being used.

Prefixes: Hyper- and Hypo-

We see another set of opposing prefixes when we discuss hyper- and hypo-. Hyper- means 'above' or 'over.' It is used in terms such as hypergastric and hypercystic. Hyper- is used in these terms along with the word roots, gastr- for stomach and cyst- for bladder, to let you know that something is 'above the stomach' and 'above the bladder' respectively.

Hypo-, having the opposite meaning of hyper-, means 'below' or 'under.' There may have been times that you heard people speaking of a hypodermic needle when speaking about drug users. Hypodermic refers to 'just below the skin' since the word root derm- means skin. Hypo- may be used in terms such as hypocardiac and hypoumbilical. Hypocardiac means that something is located 'below the heart' while hypoumbilical means something is located 'below the umbilicus or navel.'

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