Medical Jargon Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Medical Jargon

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If doctors do not want to be understood, they use Latin jargon. Right?

Wrong. Most of the medical jargon is of Greek origin. There are Latin words, of course, like appendix, or arteria femuralis, but other phrases, for example diaphragma, haemophilia, hydrocephalos and physiognomia, are Greek.

Even if you have not learned Greek or studied medicine, the information below will allow you to understand a decent amount of these phrases.

Step One

Try to find pairs of words, prefixes and suffixes which seem to have opposite meanings:

hyper-highhypertonia: high pressure/tension
hypo-lowhypotonia: low pressure/tension
endo-insideendogenous: of inside origin
exo-outsideexogenous: of outside origin
eu-good/welleutrophy: state of being well nourished
dys-bad/faultydystrophy: state of being bad nourished
-philic/-philia(having) strong affinity to so/sthnecrophilia: affinity to dead bodies
-phobic/-phobia(having) lack of affinity, dread of so/sthakrophobia: fear of heights 1
tachy-quick/fasttachycardia: fast heartbeat
brady-slowbradycardia: slow heartbeat
-megalo2-largeacromegaly: a disease characterised by excessive growth and enlargement of various bits of the body
-micro-smallmicrophthalmia: a disease characterised by extremely small eyes

Step Two

Try to find word parts which seem to indicate an effect:

-gen-creating3, producing or inciting somethingcarcinogenous (producing cancer)

Step Three

Try to find words for things and body parts:

-encephal-brain (in the head)EEG (Electroencephalogram = measuring of the brain electricity)
-ergo-workergometer (device to measure work)
-cardia-heartsee above: tachy-/bradycardia
-ophthalmo-eyesee above: microphthalmia

Step Four

Use your newly adopted knowledge to find excellent excuses for not having to go to work:

'I can't come to the office today because work makes my thinking far too slow' is far less impressive than 'because I have an acute ergogenous bradyencephalia'.

As you see, (ancient) Greek is a very logical language with a dramatically underestimated impact on today's life. Keep on searching useful words at the (Ancient) Greek - English Dictionary.

You'll be surprised how many Greek words sound familiar to you!

Please Note: h2g2 is not a definitive medical resource. If you have any health concerns you must always seek advice from your local GP. You can also visit NHS Direct or BBC Health Conditions.

1Akros means high, polis means state, city, town, so akropolis means 'the high town'.2The prefixes mega- and micro- (large / small) are two of the most common Greek words that have made it into today's languages: megawatt, megaton, megacity, microphone, microscope... the list goes on. 3Remember that the first book of the Holy Bible is known as genesis, which means creation.

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