Study Latin To Help Your Anatomy and Physiology Course

Published on 29th January 2021


You’ve made the decision to study Anatomy and Physiology and have thrown yourself into the course. But learning Latin anatomical names is a formidable task.

Why Latin? The majority of names relating to anatomy are Latin-based, as it was the language of science up to the beginning of the 18th century. All medical texts were written in Latin.

To this day it is used as a means to standardise language for medical professionals, and with a little knowledge, you too can be learning key terms and anatomical names with ease. It will help you understand that names can be broken down into different parts, each part having a different meaning. It will suddenly make sense.

Get to grips with your A&P by learning these basic prefixes. These are the one or more syllables placed before a word that change its meaning:

A-, an-            a deficiency, lack or weakness

                        Eg. Anaemia - lack of blood

                        Eg. Anaesthesia - lack of feeling

Ab-                  move away from

                        Eg. Hip abductor muscle

Ad-                  move towards

                        Eg. Hip adductor muscle

Ana-               up, again

                        Eg. Anatomy, meaning cutting up, dissecting

Anti-                opposite of, against

                        Eg. Antiseptic - against infection

Apo-                off, away from

                        Eg. Apophysis - a bony projection

Dia-                 across, through

                        Eg. Diaphragm - muscle stretching across lower thoracic cavity

Dys-                difficult, bad, defective

                        Eg. Dyspnea - difficulty in breathing

Ec-, ex-          out of, outward, out

                        Eg. Ectopic - an out of place occurrence

En-                  within, in

                        Eg. Encephalon - inside the brain


Epi-                 over, upon, outer

                        Eg. Epidermis - outer layer of skin

Hyper-            excessive, over, above

                        Eg. Hyperthyroidism - excessive activity of the thyroid

Hypo-             insufficient, under, below

                        Eg. Hypoglycaemia - low blood sugar level

Meta-              beyond, after

                        Eg. Metatarsal - middle bones of the foot after the tarsal bones

Para-              alongside, near, abnormal

                        Eg. Parotid gland - alongside the ear

Peri-                around, about

                        Eg. Periosteum - membrane around the bone

Pre-                 before, in front of

                        Eg. Prefrontal cortex of the brain

Pro-                 before, forward, in advance of

                        Eg. Prognosis - forecast or knowing in advance

Sub-               under, below, beneath

                        Eg. Subclavian artery - runs under the clavicle

Supra-            above, over

                        Eg. Supraspinatus muscle - runs above the spine of the scapula

Sy-, syn-, sym-          together, with, joined

                                    Eg, Synapse - connection joining neurons

In Part Two, we’ll look at the prefixes used to indicate parts of the body.


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