Understanding Medical Terms
At first glance, medical terminology can seem like a foreign language. But often the key to understanding medical terms is focusing on their components (prefixes, roots, and suffixes). For example, spondylolysis is a combination of "spondylo, " which means vertebra, and "lysis," which means dissolve, and so means dissolution of a vertebra.
The same components are used in many medical terms. "Spondylo" plus "itis, " which means inflammation, forms spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae. The same prefix plus "malacia, " which means soft, forms spondylomalacia, a softening of the vertebrae.
Knowing the meaning of a small number of components can help with interpretation of a large number of medical terms. The following list defines many commonly used medical prefixes, roots, and suffixes.