Biology Prefixes and Suffixes: -otomy, -tomy

Gecko Autotomy
This gecko is exhibiting autotomy of the tail. When an appendage becomes trapped, it is spontaneously cut off from the body to allow the animal to escape. Credit: James Gerholdt/Photolibrary/Getty Image

Biology Prefixes and Suffixes: -otomy, -tomy


The suffix (-otomy or -tomy) refers to the act of cutting or making an incision, as in a medical operation or procedure.


Anatomy (ana-tomy) - the study of the physical structure of living organisms. Anatomical dissection is a primary component of this type of biological study.

Autotomy (aut-otomy) - the act of removing an appendage from the body in order to escape when trapped.

This defense mechanism is exhibited in animals such as lizards, geckos, and crabs.

Craniotomy (crani-otomy) - opening of the skull, typically done to provide access to the brain when surgery is needed.

Episiotomy (episi-otomy) - surgical cut made into the area between the vagina and anus to prevent tearing during the child birthing process.

Gastrotomy (gastr-otomy) - surgical incision made into the stomach for the purpose of feeding an individual who is incapable of taking in food through normal processes.

Hysterotomy (hyster-otomy) - surgical incision made into the uterus. This procedure is done in a Cesarean section to remove a baby from the womb.

Phlebotomy (phleb-otomy) - incision or puncture made into a vein in order to draw blood.

Lobotomy (lob-otomy) - incision made into a lobe of a gland or organ. Lobotomy also refers to an incision made into a lobe of the brain to sever nerve tracts.

Rhizotomy (rhiz-otomy) - surgical severing of a cranial nerve root or spinal nerve root in order to relieve pain.

Tenotomy (ten-otmy) - incision made into tendon in order to correct a muscle deformity.

Tracheotomy (trache-otomy) - incision made into the trachea (windpipe) for the purpose of inserting a tube to allow air to flow the lungs.

This is done to bypass an obstruction.