Biology Prefixes and Suffixes: heter- or hetero-

Different Eye Color
Heterochromia is a condition in which the eyes are different colors. Credit: Tim McGuire/Photolibrary/Getty Images


The prefix (heter- or hetero-) means other, different, or dissimilar. It is derived from the Greek héteros meaning other.


Heterocellular (hetero-celluar) - referring to a structure that is formed of different kinds of cells.

Heterochromatin (hetero-chromatin) - mass of condensed genetic material, composed of DNA and proteins in chromosomes, that have little gene activity. Heterochromatin stains more darkly with dyes than other chromatin known as euchromatin.

Heterochromia (hetero-chromia) - a condition that results in an organism having eyes with irises that are two different colors.

Heterocycle (hetero-cycle) - a compound that contains more than one atom in a ring.

Heterocyst (hetero-cyst) - a cyanobacterial cell that has differentiated to carry out nitrogen fixation.

Heterogametic (hetero-gametic) - capable of producing gametes that contain one of two types of sex chromosomes. For example, males produce sperm that contain either an X sex chromosome or Y sex chromosome.

Heterogamy (hetero-gamy) - a type of alternation of generations seen in some organisms that alternate between a sexual phase and a parthenogenic phase. Heterogamy can also refer to a plant with different types of flowers or a type of sexual reproduction involving two kinds of gametes that differ in size.

Heterogenous (hetero-genous) - having origin outside of an organism, as in the transplant of an organ or tissue from one individual to another.

Heterokaryon (hetero-karyon) - cell that contains two or more nuclei that are genetically different.

Heterokinesis (hetero-kinesis) - the movement and differential distributions of sex chromosomes during meiosis.

Heterolysis (hetero-lysis) - dissolution or destruction of cells from one species by the lytic agent from a different species.

Heteromorphic (hetero-morph-ic) - differing in size, form or shape, as in some homologous chromosomes. Heteromorphic also refers to having different forms at different periods in a life cycle.

Heteronym (hetero-nym) - one of two words having the same spelling but different sounds and meanings. For example, lead (a metal) and lead (to direct).

Heterophil (hetero-phil) - having an attraction to or affinity for different kinds of substances.

Heteroplasmy (hetero-plasmy) - presence of mitochondria within a cell or organism that contains DNA from different sources.

Heteroploid (hetero-ploid) - having an abnormal chromosome number differing from the normal diploid number of a species.

Heteropsia (heter-opsia) - abnormal condition in which a person has different vision in each eye.

Heterosexual (hetero-sexual) - an individual that is attracted to persons of the opposite sex.

Heterosporous (hetero-spor-ous) - producing two different types of spores that develop into male and female gametophytes, as in the male microspore (pollen grain) and female megaspore (embryo sac) in flowering plants.

Heterotroph (hetero-troph) - an organism that uses a different means of obtaining nutrition than an autotroph.

Heterotrophs can not obtain energy and produce nutrients directly from sunlight as do autotrophs. They must obtain energy and nutrition from the foods they eat.

Heterozygous (hetero-zyg-ous) - having two different alleles for a given trait.