Top 75 Medical Prefixes and Suffixes to Know for the PTCB Exam

Mastering medical terminology is crucial in preparing for the PTCB exam and ensuring success in your career as a pharmacy technician. Medical terms are composed of various prefixes, suffixes, and root words describing conditions, procedures, and body parts.

Understanding these building blocks helps you pass the exam and enhances your ability to communicate effectively with other healthcare professionals and accurately interpret prescriptions.

Top 75 Medical Prefixes

a-/an-Without, lack ofAnemiaLack of blood
brady-SlowBradycardiaSlow heart rate
tachy-FastTachycardiaFast heart rate
hyper-Above normalHypertensionHigh blood pressure
hypo-Below normalHypoglycemiaLow blood sugar
peri-AroundPericardiumAround the heart
sub-UnderSubcutaneousUnder the skin
trans-AcrossTransdermalAcross the skin
dys-Bad, difficultDysphagiaDifficulty swallowing
epi-Upon, overEpidermisOuter layer of skin
endo-WithinEndoscopeInstrument for examining inside the body
exo-OutsideExoskeletonExternal skeleton
extra-Outside of, beyondExtracellularOutside the cell
intra-Within, insideIntravenousWithin a vein
inter-BetweenIntercostalBetween the ribs
retro-Backward, behindRetroperitonealBehind the peritoneum
anti-AgainstAntibioticAgainst life (microorganisms)
contra-Opposite, againstContraindicationAgainst indication
auto-SelfAutoimmuneImmune response against self
bi-TwoBilateralTwo sides
hemi-HalfHemiplegiaParalysis of one side of the body
micro-SmallMicrobiologyStudy of small life forms
macro-LargeMacroscopicVisible to the naked eye
mono-OneMononucleosisCondition of one nucleus
poly-ManyPolyuriaExcessive urination
oligo-Few, scantyOliguriaScanty urination
pan-AllPandemicAffecting all people
pseudo-FalsePseudocyesisFalse pregnancy
re-Again, backwardRelapseReturn of disease
semi-Half, partialSemipermeablePartially permeable
syn-Together, withSynthesisPutting together
tele-DistantTelemedicineMedicine at a distance
tri-ThreeTricepsThree-headed muscle
uni-OneUnilateralOne side
iso-EqualIsometricEqual measure
mal-BadMalnutritionBad nutrition
meta-Change, beyondMetastasisSpread of disease
multi-ManyMultigravidaWoman with many pregnancies
nulli-NoneNulliparaWoman with no pregnancies
ortho-Straight, correctOrthodonticsCorrecting teeth
para-Beside, nearParathyroidNear the thyroid
post-AfterPostoperativeAfter surgery
pre-BeforePrenatalBefore birth
pro-Before, forwardPrognosisForecast of disease
quadri-FourQuadriplegiaParalysis of four limbs
ultra-BeyondUltrasoundSound beyond normal hearing range
ambi-Both, aroundAmbidextrousUsing both hands equally
circum-AroundCircumferenceDistance around a circle
dec-TenDeciliterOne-tenth of a liter
hept-SevenHeptagonSeven-sided shape
non-NineNonagonNine-sided shape
oct-EightOctagonEight-sided shape
penta-FivePentagramFive-pointed star
prim-FirstPrimaryFirst, most important
quad-FourQuadrantOne-fourth part
sept-SevenSeptupletSeven offspring born at once
sex-SixSextupletSix offspring born at once
tetr-FourTetralogyStudy of four parts
tri-ThreeTrifectaThree achievements
xanth-YellowXanthomaYellow tumor
cyan-BlueCyanosisBluish discoloration
chlor-GreenChlorophyllGreen pigment in plants
erythr-RedErythrocyteRed blood cell
leuk-WhiteLeukemiaWhite blood cell cancer
melan-BlackMelaninBlack pigment
poli-GrayPoliomyelitisInflammation of gray matter of the spinal cord
rube-RedRubellaRed rash
alb-WhiteAlbinismLack of pigment
aqua-WaterAquaticRelated to water
gluc-SugarGlucoseSimple sugar
lip-FatLiposuctionRemoval of fat
prot-First, primaryProteinPrimary component of cells

Cardi/o – heart

  • Cardiology – the study of the heart
  • Cardiac arrest – cessation of heart function
  • Cardiovascular – relating to the heart and blood vessels

Hem/o – blood

  • Hemoglobin – the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen
  • Hematology – the study of blood and blood disorders
  • Hemorrhage – excessive bleeding

Path/o – disease

  • Pathogen – a microorganism that causes disease
  • Pathology – the study of diseases
  • Psychopathology – the study of mental disorders

Neur/o – nerve

  • Neurology – the study of the nervous system
  • Neuralgia – nerve pain
  • Neuropathy – disease or dysfunction of the nerves

Gastro – stomach

  • Gastritis – inflammation of the stomach lining
  • Gastroenterology – the study of the digestive system
  • Gastroesophageal – relating to the stomach and esophagus

Derm/o – skin

  • Dermatology – the study of the skin
  • Dermatitis – inflammation of the skin
  • Hypodermic – under the skin

Ren/o – kidney

  • Renal – relating to the kidneys
  • Nephrology – the study of the kidneys
  • Reno-vascular – relating to the kidneys and blood vessels

Hypo + glyc + emia = hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

  • The prefix “hypo-” means under or below normal
  • The root “glyc” refers to glucose or sugar
  • The suffix “-emia” indicates a blood condition Together, these components mean a condition of abnormally low levels of glucose in the blood.

Tachy + cardi + a = tachycardia (rapid heart rate)

  • The prefix “tachy-” means rapid or fast
  • The root “cardi” relates to the heart
  • The suffix “-ia” often denotes a condition or state Combined, these elements describe a state of abnormally fast heart rate.

Angi/o + plast + y = angioplasty (surgical repair of a blood vessel)

  • The root “angi/o” refers to blood vessels
  • The root “plast” means to repair or reshape
  • The suffix “-y” indicates a procedure or process So angioplasty is a procedure to surgically repair or reshape a blood vessel.

Nephr + itis = nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys)

  • The root “nephr” relates to the kidneys
  • The suffix “-itis” means inflammation Together, these components describe an inflammatory condition of the kidneys.

Dys + pep + sia = dyspepsia (difficulty digesting)

  • The prefix “dys-” means abnormal or difficult
  • The root “pep” is associated with digestion
  • The suffix “-sia” often indicates a condition Combined, these word parts signify a condition of difficult or abnormal digestion.

Why Medical Terminology is Important

Understanding medical terminology is foundational for anyone pursuing a healthcare career, particularly for pharmacy technicians. Here’s why mastering medical prefixes and suffixes is so essential:

Role in Pharmacy

Medical terminology is the language healthcare professionals use to describe the human body, its conditions, and the treatments provided.

As a pharmacy technician, you will encounter medical terms daily, whether interpreting prescriptions, communicating with pharmacists and other healthcare providers, or assisting patients.

Knowing these terms ensures that you understand the instructions and can carry out tasks accurately, which is crucial for patient safety and effective care.

Exam Relevance

A significant portion of the PTCB exam focuses on medical terminology. The exam tests your ability to recognize and understand these terms, which is vital for performing your duties correctly.

By mastering medical prefixes and suffixes, you enhance your ability to score well on this exam portion, bringing you closer to certification and a successful career.

Accurate Interpretation of Prescriptions

Prescriptions often include complex medical terms that describe medications, dosages, and administration routes. Understanding medical terminology allows you to interpret these prescriptions accurately, reducing the risk of errors that could harm patients.

For example, knowing that “hypoglycemia” means low blood sugar can help you understand the context in which a medication is prescribed.

Effective Communication

Clear and precise communication is vital in healthcare settings. When you understand medical terminology, you can effectively communicate with pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

For top-notch care and understanding, everyone involved in a patient’s treatment must be on the same page.

Enhanced Learning and Professional Development

A strong grasp of medical terminology lays the foundation for further learning and professional development. It makes it easier to understand advanced concepts and procedures as you continue your education and career in healthcare.

This knowledge helps you perform your current job better and prepares you for future roles and responsibilities.

Confidence and Professionalism

Proficiency in medical terminology boosts your confidence and professionalism. It shows that you are knowledgeable and competent in your field, which can earn your colleagues’ respect and your patients’ trust.

This confidence can also reduce stress and improve job satisfaction, as you feel more equipped to handle the challenges of your role.

Tips for Studying Medical Terminology

Mastering medical terminology is essential for passing the PTCB exam and excelling in your role as a pharmacy technician. Here are some effective tips to help you study and retain medical prefixes, suffixes, and root words:

1. Use Flashcards

Flashcards are a proven method for memorizing medical terms. Write the prefix, suffix, or root word on one side of a card and its meaning and an example on the other side. Regularly review your flashcards to reinforce your memory.

2. Create Mnemonics

Mnemonics are memory aids that can help you recall complex terms. Create simple, memorable phrases or associations that link the term to its meaning. For example, “brady-” means slow, so you could think of a “brake” that slows down a car.

3. Group Study

Studying with peers can enhance your learning experience. Form a study group with classmates or colleagues to quiz each other on medical terminology. Explaining terms to others can also reinforce your own understanding.

4. Use Visual Aids

Visual aids like diagrams, charts, and mind maps can help you visualize and organize information. Create a mind map linking related prefixes, suffixes, and root words, or draw diagrams illustrating the meaning of terms.

Using visual aids like word trees or mind maps can be a powerful way to organize and connect related medical prefixes, suffixes, and root words. These tools allow you to see the relationships between word parts and how they contribute to the meanings of different medical terms.

Prefix Word Tree

One effective method is creating a word tree for common prefixes, branching out to show words incorporating each prefix. For example, a “dys-” prefix tree could look like this:

dys- /
dysuria dyspnea (difficulty urinating) /
dyspepsia dyslexia (indigestion) (reading disorder)

You can continue adding more branches for additional “dys-” words like dysphagia, dysarthria, etc. Color-coding the prefixes can also make these trees more visually appealing.

Suffix Mind Map

A mind map format works well for suffixes to show how various root words combine with a common suffix. A mind map for the “-itis” suffix could look like:

Copy code        -itis
       /  |  \
      /   |    \
bronchitis  gastritis
(bronchial  (stomach
 inflammation) inflammation)


This allows you to see patterns in how “-itis” means inflammatory conditions of different body parts or systems.

Using visual aids like word trees or mind maps can be a powerful way to organize and connect related medical prefixes, suffixes, and root words. These tools allow you to see the relationships between word parts and how they contribute to the meanings of different medical terms.

Prefix Word Tree One effective method is to create a word tree for common prefixes, branching out to show words that incorporate each prefix. For example, a “dys-” prefix tree could look like this:

dys- /
dysuria dyspnea (difficulty urinating) /
dyspepsia dyslexia (indigestion) (reading disorder)

You can continue adding more branches for additional “dys-” words like dysphagia, dysarthria, etc. Color-coding the prefixes can also make these trees more visually appealing.

Root Word Diagrams

You can create similar diagrams for common medical root words, linking them to prefixes and suffixes that pair with each root. For “cardi/o” as the root:

Copy code        cardi/o
       /    |     \
     /      |       \
tachycardia  cardiac  myocarditis
(fast heart  (heart)  (heart muscle
   rate)              inflammation)

These visual aids help reinforce connections between related terms, making it easier to deconstruct, analyze, and remember the meanings of complex medical terminology. They also allow you to understand conceptually how prefixes, roots, and suffixes systemically build words.

The process of creating these diagrams is also a helpful active learning exercise that solidifies one’s understanding of medical terminology words, parts, and principles.

5. Break Down Words

Many medical terms are composed of multiple parts: a prefix, root word, and suffix. Practice breaking down complex terms into their components to understand their meanings.

For example, “hypoglycemia” can be broken down into “hypo-” (low), “glyc-” (sugar), and “-emia” (blood condition), meaning low blood sugar.

6. Regular Revision

Consistency is key to retention. Set aside time each day to review medical terms. Regular revision helps move information from short-term to long-term memory. Use tools like spaced repetition software (SRS) to optimize your study sessions.

7. Apply What You Learn

Apply your knowledge of medical terminology in practical contexts. Read medical articles, watch educational videos, or use medical apps that include terminology. Practicing in real-world contexts helps solidify your understanding.

8. Take Practice Tests

Practice tests are an excellent way to prepare for the PTCB exam. They test your knowledge and familiarize you with the exam format. Use practice tests to identify areas where you need further study and to build your confidence.

9. Stay Organized

Keep your study materials organized. Use binders, folders, or digital tools to store your notes, flashcards, and other study aids. Being organized can help reduce stress and make your study sessions more productive.

10. Use Real-World Examples

Connecting medical terms to real-world examples can make them easier to remember. Think about how a term is used in a clinical setting or relate it to a personal experience. For instance, if you know someone with hypertension, you might better remember that “hyper-” means above normal.

11. Stay Positive and Persistent

Learning medical terminology can be challenging, but a positive attitude and persistence will pay off. Set realistic goals, celebrate your progress, and don’t get discouraged by setbacks. Consistent effort and a positive mindset will help you succeed.

Practice Questions

Testing your knowledge with practice questions is an excellent way to reinforce your understanding of medical prefixes and suffixes. Here are 15 practice questions to help you gauge your comprehension and identify areas where you may need additional study. Each question is followed by an explanation to enhance your learning.

1. What does the prefix “brady-” mean?
  • A) Fast
  • B) Slow
  • C) Without
  • D) Above normal
  • Answer: B) Slow
  • Explanation: “Brady-” means slow. For example, bradycardia is a condition where the heart rate is slower than normal.
2. Which prefix means “outside”?
  • A) Endo-
  • B) Intra-
  • C) Exo-
  • D) Sub-
  • Answer: C) Exo-
  • Explanation: “Exo-” means outside. For example, an exoskeleton is an external skeleton.
3. What is the meaning of the suffix “-itis”?
  • A) Pain
  • B) Inflammation
  • C) Removal
  • D) Disease
  • Answer: B) Inflammation
  • Explanation: “-itis” refers to inflammation. For example, arthritis is inflammation of the joints.
4. Which prefix indicates “above normal”?
  • A) Hypo-
  • B) Hyper-
  • C) Sub-
  • D) Trans-
  • Answer: B) Hyper-
  • Explanation: “Hyper-” means above normal. For example, hypertension is high blood pressure.
5. What does the suffix “-ectomy” refer to?
  • A) Study of
  • B) Pain
  • C) Removal
  • D) Blood condition
  • Answer: C) Removal
  • Explanation: “-ectomy” means removal. For example, an appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix.
6. Which prefix means “within”?
  • A) Inter-
  • B) Retro-
  • C) Intra-
  • D) Peri-
  • Answer: C) Intra-
  • Explanation: “Intra-” means within. For example, intravenous means within a vein.
7. What does the suffix “-algia” mean?
  • A) Disease
  • B) Pain
  • C) Condition
  • D) Treatment
  • Answer: B) Pain
  • Explanation: “-algia” means pain. For example, neuralgia refers to nerve pain.
8. Which prefix means “after”?
  • A) Pre-
  • B) Post-
  • C) Pro-
  • D) Retro-
  • Answer: B) Post-
  • Explanation: “Post-” means after. For example, postoperative means after surgery.
9. What does the prefix “poly-” mean?
  • A) Many
  • B) Few
  • C) One
  • D) None
  • Answer: A) Many
  • Explanation: “Poly-” means many. For example, polyuria is excessive urination.

Share your love

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter