Biology Prefixes and Suffixes Index

Terms and Definitions. beemore/E+/Getty Images

Have you ever heard of pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis? Yes, this is an actual word. What does it mean? Some science terms can be difficult to comprehend at a glance, but by identifying the affixes (word elements added to base words) used in a word, even the most complex terms can be discerned. This index is designed to give you the tools needed to identify some commonly used prefixes and suffixes in biology.

By becoming familiars with these affixes, even the most complex words (like the one above) can be easily understood.

Common Prefixes

(Ana-): indicates upward direction, synthesis or build up, repetition, excess, or separation.

(Angio-): signifies a type of receptacle such as a vessel or shell.

(Arthr- or Arthro-): refers to a joint or a junction that separates different parts.

(Auto-): identifies something as belonging to oneself, occurring within, or occurring spontaneously.

(Blast- , -blast): indicates an immature developmental stage.

(Cephal- or Cephalo-): referring to the head.

(Chrom- or Chromo-): denotes color or pigmentation.

(Cyto- or Cyte-): regarding or relating to a cell.

(Dactyl-, -dactyl): refers to a digit or tactile appendage such as a finger or toe.

(Diplo-): means double, paired, or twofold.

(Ect- or Ecto-): means outer or external.

(End- or Endo-): means inner or internal.

(Epi-): indicates a position that is above, on, or near a surface.

(Erythr- or Erythro-): means red or reddish in color.

(Ex- or Exo-): means external, out of, or away from.

(Eu-): means genuine, true, well, or good.

(Gam-, Gamo, or -gamy): refers to fertilization, sexual reproduction, or marriage.

(Glyco- or Gluco-): pertains to a sugar or a sugar derivative.

(Haplo-): means single or simple.

(Hem-, Hemo-, or Hemato-): denoting blood or blood components (plasma and blood cells).

(Heter- or Hetero-): means unlike, different, or other.

(Karyo- or Caryo-): means nut, kernel, and also refers to the nucleus of a cell.

(Meso-): means middle or intermediate.

(My- or Myo-): means muscle.

(Neur- or Neuro-): referring to nerves or the nervous system.

(Peri-): means surrounding, near, or around.

(Phag- or Phago-): pertaining to eating, swallowing, or consuming.

(Poly-): means many or excessive.

(Proto-): means primary or primitive.

(Staphyl- or Staphylo-): referring to a cluster or bunch.

(Tel- or Telo-): denoting an end, extremity, or final phase.

(Zo- or Zoo-): pertaining an animal or animal life.

Common Suffixes

(-ase): denoting an enzyme. In enzyme naming, this suffix is added to the end of the substrate name.

(-derm or -dermis): referring to tissue or skin.

(-ectomy or -stomy): pertaining to the act of cutting out or the surgical removal of tissue.

(-emia or -aemia): referring to a condition of the blood or the presence of a substance in the blood.

(-genic): means giving rise to, producing, or forming.

(-itis): denoting inflammation, commonly of a tissue or organ.

(-kinesis or -kinesia): indicating activity or movement.

(-lysis): referring to degradation, decomposition, bursting, or releasing.

(-oma): indicating an abnormal growth or tumor.

(-osis or -otic): indicating a disease or abnormal production of a substance.

(-otomy or -tomy): denoting an incision or surgical cut.

(-penia): pertaining to a deficiency or lack.

(-phage or -phagia): the act of eating or consuming.

(-phile or -philic): having an affinity for or strong attraction to something specific.

(-plasm or -plasmo): referring to tissue or a living substance.

(-scope): denoting an instrument used for observation or examination.

(-stasis): indicating the maintenance of a constant state.

(-troph or -trophy): pertaining to nourishment or a method of nutrient acquisition.

More Information on Science Terms

For more information on how to understand difficult biology words or terms, see: