Medical terminology is famously indecipherable for those of us without the benefit of a medical school education. But it turns out that a little knowledge of linguistics can go a long way toward making sense of the myriad terms for body parts and their associated maladies. Many medical terms become a little more scrutable when you understand their prefixes and suffixes. Test your knowledge of medical prefixes and suffixes by identifying the correct definitions in this quiz.

1. –otomy

A) operating autonomously

B) an incision

C) a permanent opening

D) an ear-gazing scope

2. a– / an–

A) without (having none)

B) opposite of

C) above

D) below

3. –ostomy

A) removal

B) an incision

C) a permanent opening

D) a medical device affixed to the skin

4. stomato–

A) palms

B) stomach

C) weeping

D) mouth

5. nephro–

A) kidney

B) liver

C) pancreas

D) dead


A) infection

B) redness

C) inflammation

D) rash

7. –ectomy

A) cure

B) diagnosis

C) incision

D) removal


A) normal condition

B) stasis

C) abnormal condition

D) infection

9. entero–

A) ear

B) throat

C) rectum

D) intestine

10. cysto–

A) bladder

B) liver

C) cystic

D) pimple

Answers: 1. B (a tracheotomy is a temporary incision in the trachea). 2. A (a person with no symptoms is asymptomatic). 3. C (patients with a colostomy have a permanent hole connecting part of the colon to the outside of the body). 4. D (from the Greek word for mouth). 5. A (a nephrologist specializes in kidney diseases). 6. C (inflammation can be caused by infection, or by something else). 7. D (appendectomy, tonsillectomy … this one was easy). 8. C (endometriosis is an abnormal condition of endometrial tissue). 9. D (from the Greek word for intestine). 10. B (a cystoscopy is a peek inside the bladder with a tiny camera).

Sources: Des Moines University, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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