Understanding Cannabis Medical Terminology

Medical terminology and cannabis. Human anatomy vector illustrations of human organs and cannabis leaves.

Cannabis Medical Terminology

Studying the language of medicine in terms of cannabis-that is, cannabis medical terminology-is very similar to learning a foreign language. There are rules that must be applied to make the “language” understandable. As someone interested in learning about how cannabis works in the body, you have chosen to learn the language, to master it, and to use it appropriately in your study of cannabis. In order to do this, you must learn the rules necessary to expand your knowledge and understanding of medical terminology: the word building rules. Once you have accomplished this, you will possess the power to define words you never thought possible. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? It is! Let’s get started! 

Word Parts, Combining Forms, and Word Building Rules 

Before you begin, remember: You must learn the word parts, and the rules for combining word parts to create words, in order to be successful with cannabis medical terminology. It is nearly impossible to memorize thousands of words in a short period of time. It is possible, however, to memorize the word parts and the rules that will enable you to build the thousands of words you will need to function effectively. 

Medical words, like English words, are made up of three basic component parts: word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. How you combine the component parts, or word elements, determines the meaning of the word. For example, if one part is changed, the meaning of the word also changes. Take a look at the word port to see the different words you can create by adding it to different prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes appear at the beginning of the word root, while suffixes appear at the end of the word root. Notice that the prefixes and the suffixes are bold to emphasize how these word elements can change the meaning of the word root “port”. 

  • “port” 
  • Report 
  • Import 
  • Support 
  • Export 
  • Transport 
  • Porter 
  • Portable 

Let’s take a look at the word parts that we will be using and identifying throughout this article. 

Word Root 

 A word root is the basic foundation of a word, to which component parts are added. By adding other word elements to the root, the meaning of the word changes. A word root is also called the stem of a word or the base of a word, and usually has a Greek or Latin origin. All medical words have at least one word root; some have multiple roots that are joined by a vowel called a combining vowel. 

Example: In the word cardiologist, the word root is cardi, which means heart. When you see “cardi” (or card) as part of a word, you know that the meaning will have something to do with the heart. Another example can be found in dermatologist; the root is dermat, which means skin. Anytime you see dermat (or derm) as part of a word, the meaning will have something to do with the skin. 

Word roots keep their same meaning throughout; adding prefixes and suffixes to the roots, however, changes the meaning of the word.  

Combining Form 

A combining form is created when a word root is combined with a vowel. This vowel, known as a combining vowel, is usually an o, but occasionally it is an I. The combining vowel is used to join the word parts appropriately when creating words; it also helps in pronunciation by allowing the word to “flow” as opposed to being “choppy” without the aid of the vowel. 

Rule: When using more than one-word root, as in a compound word, a combining vowel is needed to separate the different word roots. This is done whether or not the second- or third-word root begins with a vowel. 

Example 

In the word cardiomyopathy, which means any disease that affects the structure and function of the heart (i.e., the heart muscle), there are three-word roots-cardi meaning heart, my meaning muscle, and path meaning disease-followed by the suffix y, which is a noun ending. The best way to determine the number of word roots in a compound word is to look for the combining vowels and divide, or separate, the word into elements. Let’s practice dividing the word cardiomyopathy to explain this: 

Cardi         /         o        /        my        /       o       /       path     /        y 

Root         +  vowel   +     root    + vowel  +     root    +    suffix 

Rule: A word cannot end in a combining form (word root + vowel); the combining vowel must be dropped and a suffix added, making the word a noun or an adjective. 

Example 

One word that means enlargement of the heart is megalocardia (megal/o/card/ia). 

Megal            /            o              /          card          /       ia 

Root              +     vowel      +        root        +    suffix 

The root + the vowel is the combining form (megal/o). 

Note: that the word root megal (enlargement or enlarged) becomes a combining form by adding the vowel o; the word root card cannot be used as a combining form to end the word because this would create megalocardo, which is not a word. These words use a suffix as an ending. Therefore, the o is not used after card, and the suffix –ia is added to make the word a noun. 

Suffix 

A suffix is a word part that is attached to the end of the word root. Adding a suffix to word changes the meaning of the word, just as adding different prefixes changes the meaning of the word. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Just think, a change at the beginning, a change at the end, and you have increased your word building power significantly! All medical words have an ending, or suffix, unless the root is a word itself. 

Example 

In the word cardiomegaly, the suffix is megaly (enlargement or enlarged). When you see the suffix –megaly as part of a word, it is referring to something being enlarged. 

Note:

megaly and megal/o are both acceptable word elements; –megaly is a suffix and megal/o are a combining form. As you continue learning medical terms, you will find other word elements that work as either a suffix or a combining form. Each suffix carries its meaning regardless of the root to which it is attached. 

Now that we have explored how changing the suffix also changes the meaning of the word, let’s see how a particular suffix dictates whether or not you use a combining vowel. 

Rule:

If the suffix begins with a vowel, the root will attach directly to it. If, however, the suffix begins with a consonant (anything other than a, e, i, o, u, y), the root will need a combining vowel before attaching to the suffix. 

Example 

In the word cardigram (cardi/o/gram), which means a record of the heart’s activity, the word root cardi (heart) is joined to the suffix –gram (record) by the combining vowel o since the suffix begins with a consonant. 

Prefix 

A prefix is a word element that is added at the beginning of the word. When a prefix is used with a root, it changes, or alters, the meaning of the word. Prefixes are not a part of all medical words. 

Rule: 

Prefixes are attached directly to the beginning of the word. 

Example 

In the word endocardium, the prefix is endo-, which means within or inner. You will always be discussing the inner part, or within, when using the prefix endo-. Prefixes keep the same meaning whenever they are attached to a word. What does this mean? If the root doesn’t change, and the prefix doesn’t change, how does the word change? The same root can change its meaning in a word each time a new prefix is added to it, as we have already seen in the previous example with the word root port

Medical Word Structure 

Now that we have identified the word elements (word roots, combining forms, prefixes, and suffixes), let’s see how they all fit together to build medical words. There’s a logical order to building medical words: 

  • Rule: A prefix is placed at the beginning of the word. (Always applies) 
  • Rule: A suffix is placed at the end of the word root. (Always applies) 
  • Rule: The use of more than one-word root in a word creates the need for combining vowels to connect the roots. This in turn, creates combining forms that are used in compound words. (Applies to words that have several components) 
  • Rule: Compound words are usually composed in the following order: combining form + word root +suffix. 

When several combining forms are used, the order is as follows: combining form + word root + suffix. 

When defining a medical word, there is also a logical approach. 

  • Rule: The definition of a medical word usually begins with defining the suffix (the word ending) first and continuing to “read” backwards through the word as you define it. 
  • Rule: When a medical word has a prefix, the definition of the word usually begins with defining the suffix first, the prefix second, and the root(s) last. 
  • Rule: When a medical word identifies body systems or parts, the definition of the word usually begins with defining the suffix first, then defining the organs in the order in which they are studied in the particular body system

Medical Numbers Prefixes

Prefixes are attached to words to express numbers, measurements, position, direction, negatives, and color. This section focuses on various categories of prefixes and their meanings. 

Prefixes that express numbers indicate, for example, whether there is one, two, or three; whether it is single, double, or half. Take a look at some of the more commonly used prefixes and see how they relate to numbers. 

Medical Number Prefixes and Their Meanings

  • bi- two, double
  • hemi- half
  • milli- one-thousandth
  • mono- one, single
  • primi- first
  • semi- half
  • tri- three
  • uni- one

Medical Measurement Prefixes

Prefixes that express measurement indicate quantity, such a much, many, or excessive. They often refer to multiples without specifically referring to the number; they also refer to excessive (above normal) conditions.  

Medical Measurement Prefixes and Their Meanings

  • hyper- excessive
  • multi- many
  • poly- many, much

Medical Position and/or Direction Prefixes

Prefixes that express position and/or direction are used to describe a location. The location may be in the middle of, between, under, before, or after a particular body structure, or it may be around, upon, near, or outside and area or structure. 

Medical Position and/or Direction Prefixes Prefix and Their Meanings

  • ab- from, away from
  • ad- toward, increase
  • ambi- both, both sides
  • an- without
  • ante- before, in front
  • circum- around
  • de- down, from
  • dia- through
  • ecto- outside
  • endo- within, inner
  • epi- upon, over
  • ex- out, away from
  • extra- outside of, beyond
  • hypo- less than, under
  • in- in, inside, within, not
  • infra- beneath, below, under
  • inter- between
  • intra- within
  • juxta- near, beside
  • meso- middle
  • para- near, beside
  • peri- around
  • pre- in front, before
  • retro- backward, behind
  • sub- under, below
  • supra- above, over
  • trans- across, through

Medical Color Prefixes

Prefixes that express color do just that. They indicate color in reactions, the color of growths or rashes, and the color of body fluids.  

Medical Color Prefixes and Their Meanings

  • alb- white
  • rube- red

Medical Negative Prefixes

Prefixes that express negatives indicate such things as not, without, lack of, and against.

Medical Negative Prefixes and Their Meanings

  • a- without, not
  • an- without, not
  • anti- against
  • contra- against
  • dis- free of, to undo
  • im- not
  • in- in, inside, within, not
  • non- not

Common Medical Prefixes and Their Meanings

An alphabetical listing of prefixes commonly used in the medical field is included here for easy reference.  As you look through the list, you will see that some of the prefixes in this list are repeated in the category sections of this article.

  • a- without, not
  • ab- from, away from
  • ad- toward, increase
  • alb- white
  • ambi- both, both sides
  • an- without, not
  • ante- before, in front
  • anti- against
  • auto- self
  • bi- two, double
  • bio- life
  • brady- slow
  • circum- around
  • con- together, with
  • contra- against
  • de- down, from
  • dia- through
  • dis- free of, to undo
  • dys- bad, difficult
  • ecto- outside
  • epi- upon, over
  • eu- good, normal
  • ex- out, away from
  • extra- outside of, beyond
  • hemi- half
  • homeo- likeness, same
  • homo- same
  • hydro- water
  • hyper- excessive
  • hypo- less than, under
  • idio- individual
  • im- not
  • in- in, inside, within, not
  • infra- beneath, below, under
  • inter- between
  • intra- within
  • juxta- near, beside
  • meso- middle
  • meta- change, after
  • milli- one-thousandth
  • mono-one, single
  • multi- many
  • non- not
  • pan- all
  • para- near, beside
  • per- through
  • peri- around
  • poly- many, much
  • post- after, behind
  • pre- before, in front
  • primi- first
  • pseudo- false
  • retro- backward, behind
  • rube- red
  • semi- half
  • sub- under, below
  • supra- above, over
  • sym- joined, together
  • syn- joined, together
  • tachy- rapid
  • trans- across, through
  • tri- three
  • ultra- beyond, excess
  • uni- one
  • xero- dry

Medical Noun Suffixes 

Noun suffixes can be categorized by their relationship to specialties, surgeries, specialists, conditions, and so on.  

Medical Noun Suffixes and Their Meanings

  • -a ( a nound ending)
  • -ate (something that…)
  • -e (e is a noun ending)
  • -emia (blood condition)
  • -er (one who)
  • -esis (condition of)
  • -ia (condition)
  • -iatry (treatment, medicine)
  • -ion (action, process)
  • -ism (condition)
  • -ist (practitioner)
  • -ole (small or little)
  • -tion (process of)
  • -ula (small, little)
  • -ule (“small one”)
  • -um (a suffix that identifies singular nouns)
  • -us (a suffix that identifies singular nouns)
  • -y (y is a noun ending)

Medical Plural Word Prefixes

When a word changes from singular to plural form, the ending of the word changes as well. For example, you may have only one crisis (singular) or you may have many crises (plural). Use the following rules when changing from singular to plural forms of words. 

  • Rule: When the singular form of a word ends in –a, change the a to ae to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form pleurbecomes pleurae in the plural form. 
  • Rule: When the singular form of a word ends in –ax, change the ax to aces to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form thorax becomes thoraces in the plural form. 
  • Rule: When the singular form of a word ends in –is, change the is to es to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form crisis becomes crises in the plural form. 
  • Rule: When the singular form of a word ends in –ix or –ex, change the ix or ex to ices to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form appendix becomes appendices in the plural form. The singular form apex becomes apices in the plural form. 
  • Rule: When the singular form of a word ends in –on, change the on to a to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form ganglion becomes gangliin the plural form. 
  • Rule: When the singular form of a word ends in –um, change the um to a to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form bacterium becomes bacteria in the plural form. 
  • Rule: when the singular form of a word ends in –us, change the us to i to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form thrombus becomes thrombi in the plural form. 
  • Rule: When the singular form of a word ends in –ma, change the ma to mata to form the plural. 
  • Example: The singular form fibroma becomes fibromata in the plural form. 

Medical Singular to Plural Suffix Changes

Singular Form Plural Form

  • pleura becomes pleura
  • thorax becomes thoraces
  • crisis becomes crises
  • appendix becomes appendices
  • apex becomes apices
  • ganglion becomes ganglia
  • bacterium becomes bacteria
  • thrombus becomes thrombi
  • fibroma becomes fribromata

Medical Adjective Suffixes 

Adjective suffixes are normally used to describe the root word to which they are attached. They usually mean “pertaining to”, “relating to”, “characterized by”, or “resembling”. There are no specific rules governing which adjective endings go with which words; sometimes more than one ending will work with the same word root. Understanding the definition and use of a word will help in selecting the most appropriate adjective suffix. 

Medical Adjective Suffixes and Their Meanings

  • -ac (pertaining to)
  • -al (pertaining to)
  • -ar (pertaining to)
  • -ary (pertaining to)
  • -eal (pertaining to)
  • -ic (pertaining to)
  • -ical (pertaining to)
  • -ile (pertaining to or capable)
  • -oid (resembling)
  • -ory (pertaining to or characterized by)
  • -ous (pertaining to or characterized by)
  • -tic (pertaining to)

Common Medical Suffixes and Their Meanings

An alphabetical listing of suffixes commonly used in the medical field is included here for easy reference.  As you look through the list, you will see that some of the suffixes in this list are repeated in the category sections of this article.

  • -a ( a is a noun ending)
  • -ac (pertaining to)
  • -ad (toward)
  • -al (pertaining to)
  • -algesia (sensitivity to pain)
  • -algia (pain)
  • -ar (pertaining to)
  • -ary (pertaining to or relating to)
  • -ate (something that…)
  • -blast (immature or embryonic)
  • -cele (herniation)
  • -centesis (surgical puncture)
  • -cide (to kill or to destroy)
  • -clasis (crushing or breaking up)
  • -cyte (cell)
  • -desis (binding or surgical fusion)
  • -dynia (pain)
  • -e (e is a noun ending)
  • -eal (pertaining to)
  • -ectasia (stretching or dilatation)
  • -ectomy (surgical removal)
  • -emia (blood condition)
  • -er (one who)
  • -esis (condition of)
  • -genesis (generating or formation)
  • -genic (pertaining to or formation)
  • -gram (record or picture)
  • -graph (an instrument used to record)
  • -graphy (process of recording)
  • -ia (condition)
  • -ian (specialist in a field of study)
  • -iatric(s) (field of medicine)
  • -iatry (a field of medicine)
  • -ic (pertaining to)
  • -ical (pertaining to)
  • ician (specialist in a field of study)
  • -ile (pertaining to or capable)
  • -ion (action or process)
  • -ism (condition)
  • -ist (one who-a specialist in a field of study)
  • -itis (inflammation)
  • -ize (to make; to treat or combine with)
  • -lepsy (seizure)
  • -lith (stone)
  • -lithiasis (presence or formation of)
  • -logy (the study of)
  • -logist (one who specializes in the study of)
  • -lysis (destruction of detachments)
  • -mania (a mental disorder; a “madness”)
  • -megaly (enlargement)
  • -meter (an instrument used to measure)
  • -metry (the process of measuring)
  • -oid (resembling)
  • -ole (small or little)
  • -oma (tumor)
  • -opia (visual condition)
  • -ory (pertaining to)
  • -osis (condition)
  • -ous (pertaining to or characterized by)
  • -pathy (disease)
  • -penia (decrease in or deficiency)
  • -pexy (surgical fixation)
  • -philia (attracted to)
  • -phobia (abnormal fear)
  • -plasty (surgical repair)
  • -plegia (paralysis or stroke)
  • -pnea (breathing)
  • -ptosis (drooping or prolapse)
  • -rrhagia (excessive flow or bursting forth)
  • -rrhaphy (suturing)
  • -rrhea (drainage or flow)
  • -rrhexis (rupture)
  • -scope (an instrument used to view)
  • -scopy (the process of viewing with a scope)
  • -stasis (stopping or controlling; standing still)
  • -stomy (the surgical creation of a new opening)
  • -tic (pertaining to)
  • -tion (process of)
  • -tomy (incision into)
  • -tripsy (intentional crushing)
  • -ula (small, little)
  • -ule (“small one”)
  • -um (a suffix that identifies singular nouns)
  • -uria (a characteristic of the urine)
  • -us (a suffix that identifies singular nouns)
  • -y (a noun ending)

So, there you have it, a complete guide to understanding cannabis medical terminology. Now take that knowledge and start defining words you never thought you could!

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