Noun Suffixes in Medical Terminology

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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.

This lesson is going to cover the many noun suffixes that are used in medical terminology. We will look at examples and see how some can be used interchangeably.


The three main word parts that make up a medical term are the prefix, word root, and suffix. Each word part serves a different purpose in the medical term. The purpose of the suffix is to bring some type of action to the medical term. The suffix of a medical term will tell what the subject of the term is doing, what the subject of the term is having done to it, or who is doing something with the subject of the term. Categories for the suffixes exist within these three main purposes. Suffixes can be grouped into the categories of diseases, conditions, nouns, and signs and symptoms. We are now going to discuss the noun suffixes.

Noun Suffixes for Studies

Our first suffix is used in what you are currently studying. The suffix '-logy' means 'the study of'. Right now you are learning medical terminology, which means 'the study of medical terms'. Anything that you can imagine under the sun can be and is being studied, so there are all types of '-logies'. You may recall that in high school you had to study biology, which is the study of life.

Since there is a suffix for studying something, there has to be a suffix for the person who studies. This is denoted by using the suffix '-logist'. So, right now, you are a medical terminologist, since you are a person studying medical terms. Of course, this can go beyond basic studying and get into those that delve deeply into a subject.

People who really spend time discovering and consistently learning about a subject are said to be specialists in their field of study. The two suffixes that mean 'specialist' are '-ician' and ' -ist'. If you have children, then you are very familiar with the pediatrician, which is the person who specializes in children. A dentist is a person who specializes in the teeth.

The fields that the specialists are in also get their names using a specific suffix. '-ics' means 'field of knowledge or treatment'. The pediatricians work in pediatrics since that is the field of treatment for children.

These specialists may need to get a record, or picture, of different parts of the body in order to provide treatment in their fields of study. The suffix that means 'record' or 'picture' is '-gram'. An obstetrician could do a sonogram in order to get a picture of the fetus. A heart doctor may want to do an electrocardiogram to get a record of the electrical activity of your heart.

In order to get the picture or record, an instrument of some sort must be used. The suffix '-graph' means 'instrument to record' or 'instrument to get a picture'. So, the obstetrician would use a sonograph as the instrument to get a picture of the fetus. The cardiologist would use an electrocardiograph as the instrument to record the electricity of the heart.

Another suffix that is similar in meaning is '-meter', which is an 'instrument used to measure or count'. That suffix should look very familiar to you. You are familiar with a thermometer, which is the instrument used to measure temperature.

The suffix '-scope' means 'instrument used for viewing'. When doctors look into your ear during a visit, they are using an otoscope, which is an instrument used for viewing the ear. The doctors may be looking at different structures or tissues. The suffix for this is '-ium'. They may decide to look at the myocardium, which is the structure of the heart muscle.

Noun Suffixes for Senses and Substances

At different times during your life, you may have had the status of your hearing checked. The suffix that means 'hearing' or 'condition of hearing' is '-acusis'. Maybe you are a person that tends to hear everything very loudly, and you have 'hyperacusis', meaning 'highly sensitive hearing'.

You may be able to relate to this next suffix even more. The suffix '-opia' means 'vision' or 'condition of vision'. There are times when a person may experience diplopia, or double vision, where two images are given for only one single object.

Another thing that doctors may want to check is your blood or the condition of the blood, which is indicated in the suffix '-emia'. A very common condition of blood using this suffix is anemia. At first glance, you may think this term means 'without blood', but that's not quite the case. Instead it means 'without enough healthy blood or blood cells'.

The suffix '-uria' means 'urine' or 'urination'. Yes, the doctors even want to know the state of your urine! One term that can indicate the condition of the urine is 'hematuria', meaning 'blood in the urine'. This suffix can also be used to indicate the frequency of urine, as seen in the term 'polyuria', which means 'frequent urination'.

Another noun suffix is '-dipsia', meaning 'thirst'. If you are a person who experiences frequent urination, it could lead to polydipsia, which is frequent thirst.

'-pepsia' is another noun suffix. This has nothing to do with the soda, though! This suffix means 'digestion'. A person who is experiencing difficulty with digestion has dyspepsia.

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