Biology Word Dissections

DNA Definition
Dictionary definition of DNA. Difficult biology words and terms can be made easy to understand by becoming familiar with common prefixes and suffixes. Pgiam/Getty Images

Yes, this is an actual word. What does it mean? Biology can be filled with words that sometimes seem incomprehensible. Similar to how many biology students will dissect a frog, by "dissecting" these words into discrete units, even the most complex terms can be understood. To demonstrate this concept, let's begin by performing a biology word dissection on the word above. We'll take this long, seemingly impossible to understand word and break it down into its affix components to make it much easier for us to understand.

To perform our word dissection, we'll need to proceed carefully. First, we come to the prefix (pneu-), or (pneumo-) which means lung. Next, is ultra, meaning extreme, and microscopic, meaning small. Now we come to (silico-), which refers to silicon, and (volcano-) which refers to the mineral particles that make up a volcano. Then we have (coni-), a derivative of the Greek word konis meaning dust. Finally, we have the suffix (-osis) which means affected with.

Now lets rebuild what we have dissected: Considering the prefix (pneumo-) and the suffix (-osis), we can determine that the lungs are affected with something. But what? Breaking down the rest of the terms we get extremely small (ultramicroscopic) silicon (silico-) and volcanic (volcano-) dust (coni-) particles. Thus, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is a disease of the lungs resulting from the inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust. That wasn't so difficult, now was it?

Key Takeaways

  • Similar to how many biology students will dissect an animal, by performing a "biology word dissection", even the most complex terms can be understood.
  • Once you understand the common prefixes and suffixes used in biology, obtuse words are much easier to understand.
  • For example, a large word like: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis can be broken down into its constituent parts. After parsing, we realize that it is a disease of the lungs resulting from the inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust.

Biology Terms

Now that we've honed our dissection skills, let's try some frequently used biology terms. For instance:

refers to joints and (-itis) means inflammation. Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint(s).

refers to bacteria and (-stasis) means a slowing or stoppage of motion or activity. Bacteriostasis is the slowing down of bacterial growth.

 refers to a digit such as a finger or toe and (-gram) refers to a written record. A dactylogram is another name for a fingerprint.

 means upper or outermost and (-cardium) refers to the heart. Epicardium is the outer layer of the heart wall. It is also known as visceral pericardium as it forms the inner layer of the pericardium.

means red and (-cyte) means cell. Erythrocytes are red blood cells.

Okay, let's move on to more difficult words. For instance:

Dissecting, we have (electro-), pertaining to electricity, (encephal-) meaning brain, and (-gram) meaning record. Together we have an electric brain record or EEG. Thus, we have a record of brain wave activity using electrical contacts.

refers to blood, (angio-) means vessel, and (-oma) refers to an abnormal growth, cyst, or tumor. Hemangioma is a type of cancer consisting primarily of newly formed blood vessels.

Individuals with this disorder suffer from delusions and hallucinations. (Schis-) means split and (phren-) means mind.

These are Archaeans that live in extremely hot and acidic environments. (Therm-) means heat, next you have (-acid), and finally (phil-) means love. Together we have heat and acid lovers.

Additional Terms

Using our new found skills, we should have no trouble with the following biology related terms.

Angiomyogenesis (angio - myo - genesis): This is a medical term that refers to the regeneration of heart (myocardial) tissue.

Angiostenosis (angio - stenosis): This term refers to the narrowing of a vessel, typically a blood vessel.

Angiostimulatory (angio - stimulatory): Angiostimulatory refers to the stimulation and growth of blood vessels.

Biotroph (bio - troph): Biotrophs are parasites. They do not kill their hosts as they establish a long-term infection as they get their energy from living cells.

Bradytroph (brady - troph): This term refers to an organism that experiences very slow growth without the presence of a particular substance.

Necrotroph (necro - troph): Unlike biotrophs, necrotrophs are parasites that kill their host and survive on the dead remains.

Oxalotrophy (oxalo - trophy): This term refers to the metabolism of oxalates or oxalic acid by organisms.

Once you understand the commonly used prefixes and suffixes, obtuse words are a piece of cake! Now that you know how to apply the word dissection technique, I'm sure you'll be able to determine the meaning of the word thigmotropism (thigmo - tropism).

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Your Citation
Bailey, Regina. "Biology Word Dissections." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, Bailey, Regina. (2021, July 29). Biology Word Dissections. Retrieved from Bailey, Regina. "Biology Word Dissections." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).