Biology Prefixes and Suffixes Index

You can easily understand scientific terms through prefixes and suffixes

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Have you ever heard of pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis? This is an actual word, but don't let that scare you. Some science terms can be difficult to comprehend: By identifying the affixes -- elements added before and after base words -- you can understand even the most complex terms. This index will help you identify some commonly used prefixes and suffixes in biology.

Common Prefixes

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

(Angio-): signifies a type of receptacles 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 appendages 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 or 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.

Other Tips

While knowing suffixes and prefixes will tell you much about biological terms, it's helpful to know a few other tricks for deciphering their meanings, including:

  • Breaking down words: Breaking down biological terms into their component parts can help you decipher their meanings.
  • Dissections: Just as you might dissect a frog "to separate (it) into pieces," as Merriam-Webster explains, you can also break down a biological term to "expose" its "several parts for scientific examination."
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Your Citation
Bailey, Regina. "Biology Prefixes and Suffixes Index." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, Bailey, Regina. (2021, July 29). Biology Prefixes and Suffixes Index. Retrieved from Bailey, Regina. "Biology Prefixes and Suffixes Index." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).