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Veterinary Medical Terminology

Courtesy of Nanette Walker Smith, RVT, CVT and Elizabeth Warren, RVT

All veterinary hospitals should have a good veterinary medical dictionary accessible at all times. We recommend Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, second ed. by Blood and Saunders.

Basic word structure: Most medical terms can be deciphered by breaking them down to their roots: Prefix – word beginning, may completely change the meaning of the word Combining vowel – links root words to root words or suffixes (usually “o”) Root word – foundation of the word, may change to a combining form to link words Suffix – word ending, refers back to the root

The most common word structures seen in veterinary practice are listed in the charts below:

PrefixMeaningExampleLiteral TranslationActual Definition
a-, ab-, absNo, notAgalactiaCondition of no milkPartial or complete absence of milk flow in the absence of mammary gland disease
Ad-Toward, nearAdductTo draw toward the medianMovement towards the median or central line
Amb-, ambi-BothAmbidextrousBoth rightHaving the ability to work effectively with either hand
Amphi-On both sidesAmphiarthrosisJoined on both sidesJoint which surfaces are connected by fibrocartilage (allows very little movement)
An-No, notAnemiaWithout bloodDecreased number of red blood cells (erythrocytes) or the amount of hemoglobin in the erythrocytes
Ant-, anti-AgainstAntibioticAgainst lifeDestructive of life
Auto-SelfAutonomicPertaining to ones nerves(Neurologically) – not subject to voluntary control
Ana-Up, apartAnatomyProcess of cutting apartThe science dealing with the form and structure of living organisms
Bili-Pertaining to bileBiliaryPertaining to the bilePertaining to the bile, bile ducts, or gall bladder
Brady-SlowBradycardicSlow heartA slow heart rhythm
Broncho-Relating to bronchiBronchioleSmall bronchiThe very small branches of the bronchi
Cardi-, cardio-Relating to the heartCardiacPertaining to the heartPertaining to the heart
Cervico-Relating to the neckCervicalPertaining to the cervical regionPertaining to the cervical region
CircaAboutCircadianAbout the dayA daily rhythm or daily occurrence
CircumAroundCircumferenceAround the outsideMeasurement around the outside of a structure
Co-Work togetherCoagulantWork together to form clotTo cause a clot
Con-Together withConcussionTogether with blowViolent jar or shock that results in severe injury
Contra-Against, proposedContralateralAgainst the sidePertaining to, situated on, or affecting the opposite side
Di-TwiceDiarticularTwo jointsPertaining to two joints
Dia-Through, completeDiagnoseKnowledge of a conditionTo identify or recognize a disease
Dialy-To separateDialysisTo separate break apartProcess of separating components of a fluid and maintain viability
En-InwardEncephalicIn the headPertaining to the brain; within the skull
Endo-Within, innerEndocrineSecrete withinPertaining to internal secretions
Epi-AboveEpidermisPertaining to the skin aboveThe outer layer of skin
Ex-OutExciseTo cut outTo remove by cutting
Exo-Outside of, outwardExogenousPertaining to outward productionOriginating outside or caused by factors outside the organism
Extra-Outside of; in addition toExtra-labelOutside of the labelUse of a drug in a way or for a purpose not specified on the label
Fibro-Relating to fibersFibrosarcomaFiber cancerSarcoma made of fibrous tissue
Gaster-, gastr-, gastro-Pertaining to the stomachGastrotomyCut in the stomachSurgical incision into the stomach
Hemi-HalfHemilaminectomyRemoval of half the laminaRemoval of a vertebral lamina on one side only
Hemo-Relating to the bloodHemogramBlood report/graphReport of the blood parameters
Hepat-, hepatico-, hepato-Pertaining to the liverHepaticPertaining to the liverPertaining to the liver
Homeo-Denoting likeness or resemblanceHomeopathyThe study of like diseasesStudy of treating disease in a sick animal with drugs capable of producing the same response in a healthy animal
Homo-Same, similarHomogeneousGenerated the sameOf uniform quality, composition or structure
Hyal-Clear, transparentHyaline Clear, transparentPertaining to a clear/transparent appearance of a cast or membrane
Hyper-Excessive, aboveHypertrophicPertaining to excessive foodIncrease in volume of a tissue or organ produced entirely by enlargement of existing cells (over nourishment)
Hypo-Below, deficientHypothyroidDeficient thyroidDeficient thyroid gland activity
Idio-Relationship to one's self or something separate and distinctIdiopathicPertaining to a disease Pertaining to a disease with an unknown origin
In-Not, in, inside, withinIngestaMaterial withinMaterial taken into the body by mouth
Infra-BelowInfraorbitalPertaining to below the eyePertaining to below the eye
Intra-WithinIntrauterineWithin the uterusWithin the uterus
Iso-Equal, alikeIsometricEqual measureEqual measure
Karyo-Relating to a cell's nucleusKaryocyteNucleated cellNucleated cell
Laryngo-Pertaining to the larynxLaryngospasmSpasm of the larynxSpasmodic closure of the larynx (seen in cats)
Medi-MiddleMediastinumMiddle of the sternumThe membranes that separate the thorax into right and left at the sternum and vertebral column
Myelo-Pertaining to the spinal cord or bone marrowMyelogramA record of the spinal cordInjection of a dye into the space around the spinal column to produce a specific image on a radiograph
Ovari-, ovario-Pertaining to the ovaryOvariohysterectomyRemoval of the ovaries and uterusSurgical removal of the ovaries and uterus
Omni-AllOmnivoreOne that eats allAnimal that eats both plants and meat (i.e. dog)
Peri-Surrounding, aroundPerivascularPertaining to around a vesselAround a vessel
Post-Behind, afterPostsurgicalAfter surgeryAfter surgery
Pre-, Pro-Before, in front of, favoringPrognathismCondition before the jawAbnormal protrusion of one or both jaws, especially the lower one
Pseudo-FalsePseudopregnancyFalse pregnancyFalse pregnancy
Re-BackRecheckCheck backRe-examination of a patient
Retro-BehindRetrogradeGoing backwardGoing backward
Semi-HalfSemicircular Half circleHalf circle
Steato-FattySteatitisFat inflammationInflammation of fatty tissue
Sub-Under, nearSubmandibularUnder the mandibleUnder the mandible
Syn-Joined togetherSynarthrosisJoint joined togetherEssentially a fused joint (skull suture)
Trans-Across, through, beyondTransplacentalAcross the placentaThrough the placenta
Un-Not, reversalUnconsciousNot consciousNot conscious

 

SuffixMeaningExampleLiteral TranslationActual Definition
-able, -ible, -bleThe power to bePalpableThe power to feelAble to feel something
-acPertaining toCardiacPertaining to the heartPertaining to the heart
-alPertaining toNeuralPertaining to a nerve or nervesPertaining to a nerve or nerves
-algiaPainArthralgiaPain of the jointPain in a joint
-aseForms the name of an enzymeAsparaginaseEnzymeEnzyme that catalyzes the deamination of asparagine
-blastDesignates a cell or structureMyeloblastBone marrow cellImmature cell of the bone marrow
-celeDenoting a swellingSialoceleSwelling of the salivary glandSwelling of the salivary gland
-centesisDenoting a punctureCystocentesisPuncture of a cystCommonly known as a needle aspirate of bladder contents
-cyteCellErythrocyteRed blood cellRed blood cell
-ectomyExcisionLumpectomyExcision of a lumpExcision of a lump
-emiaBlood conditionLipemiaFat in the bloodAn excess of lipids in the blood
-esthesiaDenoting sensationAnesthesiaWithout sensationWithout sensation
-gene, -genesis, -genetic, -genicDenoting production, originAngiogenesisBlood vessel originThe development of blood vessels
-gramA tracing, a markEchocardiogramEcho tracing of the heartThe record produced by sound wave examination of the heart
-graphA writing, a recordElectrocardiographRecord of electrocardiogramThe record produced by electrical tracings of the heart
-iaConditionLeukopeniaDecreased white blood cellsReduction of the number of leukocytes (white blood cells) in the blood
-iasisDenoting a condition or pathologic stateAtelectasisCondition of collapsed lungCollapsed or airless lung tissue
-icPertaining toGastricPertaining to the stomachPertaining to, affecting, or originating in the stomach
-istOne who specializes inNephrologistPerson specializing in kidneysVeterinarian specializing in the study of kidneys
-itisInflammationPancreatitisInflammation of the pancreasInflammation of the pancreas
-logyProcess of studyZoologyThe study of animalsThe biological study of animals
-oidDenoting form or resemblanceOpiodLike an opiateSynthetic narcotic that acts like an opiate
-omaTumor, massHematomaMass of bloodA localized collection of extravasated blood, usually clotted, in an organ, space, or tissue
-opsyProcess of viewingNecropsyViewing of a deceased bodyExamination of a body after death. The term used for animals, synonymous with autopsy (for humans)
-osisAbnormal conditionProptosisAbnormal forward placement of the eyeEyeball is either pushed forward in the eye socket or is partially out of the socket.
-ostomosis, -ostomy, -stomyTo furnish with an opening or mouthGastrostomyOpening the stomachSurgical opening of the stomach
-plastyDenoting molding or shapingRhinoplastyShaping the noseSurgical shaping of the nose
-rhagia, -rhagicDenoting discharge, usually bleedingHemorrhagicBloody dischargeBloody discharge
-rhaphyMeaning suturing or stitchingGastrorhaphySurgical repair of the stomach by sutureSurgical repair of the stomach by suture
-rheaMeaning a flow or dischargeDiarrheaRapid flow of fecal matterRapid flow of fecal matter
-scopeInstrument to visually examineEndoscopeInstrument used to view something withinInstrument used to view the inside of the gastrointestinal tract, or within another organ.
-scopyProcess of visually examiningGastroscopyVisual examination of the gastrointestinal tractVisual examination of the gastrointestinal tract
-sisState of conditionPrognosisForethought of knowledgeA forecast of the probable course of a patients condition/disease
-tome, -tomyInstrument to cut, process of cuttingOsteotomeInstrument that cuts boneA chisel-like knife for cutting bone

Combining Forms:

RootMeaningExampleDefinition of Example
Aer-, aeroDenoting gasAerophagicCondition of gulping air, filling the stomach with air
Alge-, algesi-, algo-Relating to painAnalgesiaWithout pain
Anomalo-Denoting irregularityAnomalyAn irregular finding
Arthro-Relating to a joint or jointsArthrodesisFusion of a joint
Brevi-ShortAbbreviateVery short, shortened
Celio-Denoting the abdomenCeliotomyIncision into the abdomen
Chol-, chole-, cholo-Relating to bileCholestasisStoppage of the bile flow
Chrom-, chromo-Relating to colorChromatophylicLikes color (takes up stain well, i.e. cells)
Cranio-Relating to the cranium of the skullCraniotomyA cut into the cranium
Cryano-, cryo-Denoting coldCryosurgerySurgery performed by freezing (with liquid nitrogen)
Crypt-To hide, a pitTonsilar cryptPocket of skin where the tonsils sit
Cyano-Dark blueCyanobacteriaPhotosynthesizing bacteria esp. in water
Cyclo-Pertaining to a cycleAcyclicWithout a cycle
Cysto-Relating to a sac or cystCystotomyIncision into a cyst (usually denoting the urinary bladder)
Cyto-Denoting a cellCytologyThe study of cells
Dacryo-Pertaining to the lacrimal glandsDacryosyrinxLacrimal duct
Dactylo-Relating to digitsPolydactylyMany digits (i.e. 6-toed cats)
Dent-, dento-, donto-Relating to teethDentalPertaining to the teeth
Derma-, dermat-Relating to the skinDermatophytosisCondition of skin fungus
Desmo-Relating to a bond or ligamentDesmitisInflammation of a ligament
Dextro-RightDextroversionVersion of the right, (i.e. movement of eyes to the right)
Diplo-Double, twofoldDiploidResembling a double or two of the same
Dorsi-, dorso-Referring to the backDorsalPertaining toward the vertebral column
Duodeno-Relating to the duodenumDuodenoscopyObserving the duodenum
Electro-Relating to electricityElectrocauteryBurning by electricity (or coagulating)
Encephalo-Denoting the brainEncephalitisInflammation of the brain
Entero-Relating to the intestinesEnterotomyIncision into the intestines
Eso-InwardEsophagusStructure that brings the food inward
Facio-Relating to the faceFacialPertaining to the face
Gero-, geronto-Denoting old ageGeriatricPertaining to the aged
Gingiva-Relating to the gingiva or gumGingivitisInflammation of the gingiva
Gloss-, glosso-Relating to the tongueHypoglossalUnder the tongue
Gluco-Denoting sweetnessGlucosuriaGlucose in the urine
Glyco-Relating to sugarGlycosuriaGlucose in the urine
Gnath-, gnatho-Denoting the jawPrognathicHaving a protruding jaw
Hist-, histio-, histo-Relating to a tissueHistopathologyMicroscopic examination of tissue for disease (what you do to a biopsy)
Hydr-, hydro-Denoting waterHydrocephalic“water” on the brain (excessive fluid retention in the cranium)
Ileo-Pertaining to the ileumIleocecalThe area where the ileum joins the cecum
Ipsi-Meaning selfIpsilateralOn the same side
Irido-Relating to a colored circleIridiodialysisSeparation or loosening of the iris from its attachments
Iso-EqualIsometricMeasures the same
Jejuno-Pertaining to the jejunumJejunostomySurgically created an opening in the jejunum
Kerato-Relating to the corneaKCS (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca) (inflammation and drying of the cornea and conjunctiva
Labio-Pertaining to the lipsLabialPertaining or toward the lips
Lacto-Relating to milkAgalactiaNot producing milk
Laparo-Pertaining to the loin or flankLaparoscopyVisualization of the abdominal cavity
Latero-Pertaining to the sideLateralPertaining to the side
Leido-, leio-SmoothLeiomyosarcomaSarcoma of the smooth muscle
Leuk-, leuko-Denoting deficiency of colorLeukocyte“White” blood cell
Lip-, lipo-Pertaining to fatLipomaFatty tumor
Litho-Denoting a calculusUrolithUrinary stone
Macr-, macro-Large, longMacrocyticLarge cells
Masti, mastro-Relating to the breastMastitisInflammation of the breast tissue
Meg-, mega-Great, largeSplenomegalyEnlarged spleen
Meningo-Denoting membranes, covering the brain and spinal cordMeningiomaTumor of the spinal membranes
Micr-, micro-Small in size or extentMicroscopicUnable to be seen by the naked eye
Mono-OneMonochromeOne color
Morpho-Relating to formMorphologicPertaining to the shape of something
Multi-ManyMultiparaMany viable births (i.e. as in cats)
My-, myo-Relating to muscleMyotomyIncision of a muscle
Myc-, mycet-Denoting a fungusMycoticPertaining to fungus like appearance
Myringo-Denoting tympani or the eardrumMyringectomyExcision of the eardrum
Myx-, myxo-Pertaining to mucusMyxovirusSynonym for influenza virus (mucus virus)
Naso-Relating to the noseNasopharyngealPertaining to the area where the nose and pharynx meet
Necro-Denoting deathNecroticPertaining to dead tissue
Neo-NewNeoplasmNew growth
Nephr-, nephro-Denoting the kidneyNephrotoxinToxic to the kidney
Normo-Normal or usualNormovolemiaNormal blood volume
Oculo-Denoting the eyeOculomotorNerve that controls eye movement
Onco-Denoting a swelling or massOncologyThe study of masses
Onycho-Relating to the nailsOnychectomyDeclaw (removal of toenail)
oo-Denoting an eggOocystEgg cell
Opisth-, opistho-BackwardOpisthotonosA form of spasm in which the head and tail are bent dorsally and the abdomen bent ventrally
Ophthal-, opthalmo-Pertaining to the eyeOphthalmoscopeInstrument to examine the eye
Optico-Relating to visionOpticalPertaining to the ability to see
Orchi-, orcho-Relating to the testesOrchiectomyRemoval of the testes
Oro-Relating to the mouthOronasalWhere the mouth meets the nasal passages
Ortho-Straight, rightOrthopedicPractice of correct function of the skeletal system
Osteo-Relating to the bonesOsteoporosisPathological loss of bone
Ot-, oto-Denoting an earOtoscopyVisual exam of the ear
Patho-Denoting diseasePathology The study of disease
Pedia-, pedo-Denoting a child or youngPediatricsPertaining to the study of the young/child
Perineo-Combining form for the region between the anus and scrotum or vulvaPerineumThe region between the anus and scrotum or vulva
Phago-Denoting a relationship to eatingPhagocytosisThe “eating” of cells or absorption of cells
Pharyngo-Pertaining to the pharynxPharyngotomyIncision into the pharynx
Phleb-, phlebo-Denoting the veinsPhlebitisInflammation of the veins
phot-, photo-Relating to lightPhotoperiodPeriod of light
Pilo-Relating to hairPiloerectionHair standing on end
Plasmo-Relating to plasma or the substance of a cellPlasmacytePlasma cell
Pneuma-, pneumono-, pneumoto-Denoting air or gasPneumonitisInflammation of lung tissue = pneumonia
Pod-, podo-Meaning footArthropodJointed foot (type of insect)
Poly-ManyPolydactylyMany digits
Ptyalo-Denoting salivaPtylectasisDilation of a salivary duct
Pulmo-Denoting the lungPulmonary Pertaining to the lungs/respiratory system
Pupillo-Denoting the pupilPapillary Pertaining to or emanating from the pupil
Pyel-, pyelo-Denoting the pelvis PyelonephritisInflammation of the renal pelvis
Pyloro-Relating to the pylorusPylorusThe distal aperture of the stomach or abomasums
Py-, pyo-Denoting pusPyonephritisInfection in the kidneys
Recto-Denoting the rectumRectoceleHernial protrusion of part of the rectum and colon
Rhin-, rhino-Denoting the noseRhinoscopyVisual exam of the nose
Sclero-Denoting hardnessSclerodermaHardened skin
Sero-Pertaining to serumSeromaSwelling of serum
Sinistro-LeftSinistrocerebralSituated in the left hemisphere of the brain
Somato-Denoting the bodySomaticPertaining to the body
Spasmo-Denoting a spasmSpasmodicPertaining to a spasm
Spermato-, spermo-Denoting spermSpermatocideAgent that destroys spermatozoa
Sphero-Denoting a sphere, roundSpherocyteRed blood cell with decreased volume that is round and dense (not biconcave)
Sphygma-Denoting a pulseSphygmomanometerInstrument for measuring arterial blood pressure
Spleen-, spleno-Denoting the spleenSplenomegalyEnlargement of the spleen
Staphyl-, staphylo-Resembling a bunch of grapesStaphylococcusA group of cocci
Steno-Narrow, shortStenosisNarrowing of an area
Steth-, stetho-Relating to the chestStethoscopeInstrument used to obtain an aural examination of the chest
Stomato-Denoting the mouthStomatocyteRed blood cell with the appearance of a mouth
Sym-, syn-With, along, togetherSymmetricalEqually on both sides
Tacho-, tarchy-SwiftTachycardicPertaining to a swift/fast heartbeat
Tarso-Relating to the flat of the footTarsalPertaining to the hind foot
Terato-Denoting a marvel, prodigy, or monsterTeratogenicProduction of a deformity in a developing embryo
Thoraco-Relating to the chestThoracocentesisPuncturing the chest with a needle
Thrombo-Denoting a clot of bloodThrombocyteA cell specialized for forming clots
Toxico-, toxo-Denoting poisonToxicology The study of poisons
Tracheo-Denoting the tracheaTracheostomyCreating an opening in the trachea
Trichi-, tricho-Denoting hairTrichoscopyExamination of the hair
Ur-, uro-, urono-Relating to urineUrinalysisExamination of urine
Vaso-Denoting a vesselVasoconstrictionConstriction of blood vessels
Veno-Denoting a veinVenipunctureSurgical puncture a vein
Ventri-, ventro-Denoting the abdomenVentralPertaining to the abdomen in non humans
Vertebro-Relating to the vertebraVertebral Pertaining to the vertebra
Viscero-Denoting the organs of the bodyVisceral Pertaining to the surface of the internal organs
vivi-Denoting aliveViviparousGiving birth to living young which develop within the maternal body
Xantho-Denoting yellowXanthochromicYellow colored
Xero-Denoting drynessXerodermaA mild form of ichthyosis, excessive dryness of the skin

Terminology frequently used to designate body parts of organs:

Body part/organMedical terminology
AirPneumo
AnusAnal, ano-
ArmBrachial, brachio-
BloodHem-, hemo-, hemat-
ChestThoracic, thorax, thoraco
EarAuricle, oto-
EyeOcular, oculo-, ophthalmo-
Foot Pedal, ped-, -pod
GallbladderChole-, chol-
HeadCephalic, cephalo-
HeartCarium, cardiac, cardio-
IntestinesCecum, colon, duodenum, ileum, jejunum
KidneyRenal, nephric, nephro-
LipCheil-, labi-
LiverHepatic, hepato
LungsPulmonary, pulmonic
MouthOral, os, stoma, stomat-
MuscleMyo-
NeckCervix, cervical, cervico-
PenisPenile
RectumRectal
SkinDerma, integumentum
StomachGastric, gastro-
TesticleOrchio-, orchi-, orchido-
Urinary bladderCysti-, cysto-
UterusHystero-, metra
VaginaVulvo, vaginal

Planes and terms relative to the animal body:

Mesial – in or near the middle of the dental arcade
Axial – pertaining to or with respect to the axial skeleton (head, vertebrae, rib cage
Sagittal – a plane or section parallel to the median plane of the body, separates body into right and left
Oblique – slanted or inclined plane
Transverse – separates body into front and back
Lateral – pertaining to a side
Ventral – pertaining to the belly, abdomen, or underside of the body, opposite of dorsal
Dorsal – pertaining to the back or top of the body, opposite of ventral
Cranial – pertaining to the head or cranium
Caudal – pertaining to the hind end or tail
Frontal – plane that separates the body into top and bottom
Rostral – pertaining to the nose
Palmar – pertaining to the pads or bottom of the foot (as would be the human palm)
Plantar – pertaining to the sole or caudal aspect of the digit
Proximal – nearest to a point of reference or point of attachment
Distal – furthest to a point of reference or point of attachment

Courtesy of Nanette Walker Smith, RVT, CVT and Elizabeth Warren, RVT

The Nerd Book
The VSPN Nerdbook was created by veterinary technicians and veterinary support staff for their colleagues. The Nerdbook provides information that veterinary technicians and support staff need in practice, but is not meant to contain everything. Procedures and policies vary among practices, so feel free to modify your Nerdbook fit your facility.
Volume One
Contributors
Introduction
Clinical Pathology
Critical Care - Triage
Emergency-Receptionist tips
Medical Calculations
Medical Records
You are hereMedical Terminology
Pharmacology
Physical Exam
Preventative Health
Radiology

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