Medical Terminology for Beginners

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the doctor’s office, nodding and smiling, taking mental note of all the words you need to look up when you get home?  Walking into a hospital or doctor’s office can sometimes feel like walking into a new place, where everyone is speaking a different language.

This guide in basic Medical Terminology is here to help! The next time you’re speaking with any medical professional you will feel like you’re, finally, speaking the same language.


Where to Start, and Where to End

These are some common prefixes and suffixes used in medical terminology, which you will likely hear.

  • HYPER-Above normal or excessive. For example, high blood pressure is commonly referred to by healthcare professionals as hypertension.
  • HYPO– Below normal, or too little. For example, low blood pressure is commonly referred to by healthcare professionals as hypotension.
  • DYS­- A painful, abnormal or problematic condition. For example, dyspepsia refers to abdominal pain.
  • -ITIS– Inflammation. For example, arthritis is the inflammation of the joints.
  • -PLASTY– Applied to surgical procedures that repair, replace, restore or improve the body. For example, angioplasty is a procedure that opens blocked blood vessels.

Medical Terminology

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Common Experience, not so Common Name

These common ailments sometimes go by less common names.

  • Abscess– Infection, wound or sore
  • Abrasion– A cut or scrape
  • Contusions– Bruises
  • Sutures– Stitches
  • Lesion– A cut, sore, wound or injury to the tissue

Abstract Adjectives

These are some of the word healthcare professionals may use to describe your situation and treatment.

  • Acute– Sudden onset or brief duration.
  • Benign– Usually in reference to a tumor, meaning it does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body and is not cancerous.
  • Compound Fracture­- A broken bone that is protruding from the skin.
  • In Remission– The disease is still present, but it is not getting worse, don’t get this confused with being cured!
  • Malignant– Usually in reference to a tumor, meaning it does spread to other parts of the body and is cancerous.


  • Biopsy– The process of removing a tissue sample for testing.
  • Pathology– Often times, a report based on the cause and effects of a disease.

The next time you’re at the doctor’s office you’ll feel at ease knowing some of the most common medical terminology, and if there is anything you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask!

If you want to learn more, or are intrigued by a healthcare career, get more information about building your career here, and find the diploma program that will transform your future!

Check out these tips to write Healthcare Resume.


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