Suffix/Prefix Origin/Meaning Example
(Key: L= Latin, G= Greek)
Sub- L, under subdural space – the space between the dura mater and the arachnoid (spider-like) covering of the brain. The three layers, dura mater (hard mother – mothers protect), pia mater (gentle mother), and arachnoid mater make up the protective coverings of the central nervous system. The central nervous system (CNS) includes the brain and spinal cord. The coverings of the CNS are also called the meninges. Often, we hear of subdural hematoma (bleeding) due to injury (trauma) or bacterial meningitis, inflammation of the meninges.
Delta G, triangle,(Letter D in Greek)
deltoid muscle – covers the contour of the shoulder, like the shoulder pads in women’s suits in the 1980’s.
di- G, double, two digastric – a muscle that lies below the body of the mandible (lower jaw). This muscle looks as if it has two bellies (gastric). Think about a cute, chubby baby full of mother’s milk. The early anatomists had vivid imaginations as they named the parts of the body. Some say they were trying to make our lives difficult!
Dis- L, separation dissect – to cut methodically to study the internal parts.
Duco- L, to lead abduct – to draw away from the midline of the body. Place arms at side; then lift out to the sides. You are abducting.
Ect- G, outside ectoderm – the outer layer of the early embryo. Embryology is the science of the development of the embryo from fertilization of the ovum to the fetus stage. The more we understand embryology, the more we can understand the adult body, in particular the brain and organs. Knowing one’s history is important in medical science, also. We have an Embryology Boot Camp for young surgeons and others who require an intense review while facing difficult exams in this area.
-ectomy G, excision hysterectomy – surgical removal of a woman’s uterus. The uterus is where a baby grows. After hysterectomy, a woman may not have periods or become pregnant. During the hysterectomy, the physician may also remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The ovaries produce eggs and hormones. The fallopian tubes carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. The cervix (neck) is the lower end of the uterus that joins the vagina. These organs are located in the woman’s lower abdomen. (This may seem obvious for those who have been in healthcare all of their adult lives. Increasingly, I am seeing many people enter medicine from other fields, such as law, finance, and many others.)
If a woman has a hysterectomy
1) has not yet reached menopause
2) and she keeps her ovaries, she may enter menopause earlier than most women.
If the ovaries are removed during hysterectomy, the woman will enter menopause. Hot flashes and vaginal dryness are common complaints of menopause. Talk to the doctor about ways to manage menopause. I thought it necessary to spend some time on the basics of the female body. However, several lectures away, we will cover male and female anatomical functions and problems in detail.
End- (ent-) G, within endothelium – the tissue that forms a single layer of cells lining various organs, and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels. It is formed in the embryonic mesoderm. (My definition of Embryology – knowing your anatomic history.)
Epi- G, upon epiglottis – upon the glottis. Get ready for a lengthy explanation. The epiglottis is a flap of elastic cartilage covered with a mucous membrane, and is attached to the entrance of the larynx. It projects obliquely upwards, behind the tongue and the hyoid bone, pointing dorsally. The term epiglottis, like tonsils, is often incorrectly used to refer to the uvula. There are taste buds on the epiglottis. Did your grandmother ever threaten to slap the taste buds out of your mouth when you were sassy? Granny would have to slap really hard! Laughing should definitely be required to study science, because there is a lot of information to cover. I always advise students to use every honest advantage available. (Hint: Grandma’s slap – taste buds- epiglottis-watch your smart mouth). Granny actually knew a little anatomy, because the epiglottis guards the entrance of the glottis, which is the opening between the vocal folds! The epiglottis is really cool because it points upward while we are breathing, but when we swallow, the elevation of the hyoid bone draws the larynx upward causing the epiglottis to fold down into a horizontal position. It keeps the food from going into the trachea and forces it into the esophagus to the rear. You know the horrible feeling of food ‘going into the wrong pipe.’
Ex- G and L, out exocrine glands – secrete or ‘give off’ products including hormones and other chemical messages into ducts, which lead directly to the external environment. (Huge biblical hint – the book of Exodus told the account of the children of Israel fleeing Egypt. Bob Marley’s song “Exodus” speaks of movement of the people. Needless to say, I still hear the horns of that song when I lecture on the exocrine system.) Use association to reinforce everything you need to learn. Make the educational process a personal experience and learn a new concept every day.