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History and Practical Uses of Medical Terminologies

The language used to describe the parts and functions of the human body, medical operations, illnesses, disorders, and medicines are known as medical terminology. It is, briefly, the terminology doctors use to explain the body, what it does, and the therapies they prescribe. This system typically includes prefixes, root words, combining vowels, and suffixes for its words. These components are used to provide precise phrases that aid in describing various bodily problems. Understanding the history, evolution and practical use of medical terminologies is essential to medicine.

History of Medical Terminologies

Diachronically, several languages have affected modern medical English vocabulary, including Greek, Latin, Latinized Greek, French, and Arabic. According to Kujawska-Lis (2018), this interrelationship is closely related to the historical setting in which the language of medicine evolved. Due to discoveries and innovations, national medical languages developed quickly in the 19th century, and many vernacular terminologies later joined medical languages in specific nations. The 20th century saw an even more excessive growth of medical terminology as new names were created to describe both clinical problems and the technologies used to identify them due to improvements in diagnostic methods and equipment.

The Latin and Greek languages have greatly influenced medical terminology’s development. Beginning in the Renaissance, anatomy became a science. Early anatomists were often professors at Italian medical colleges. These pioneering anatomists gave Latin names to the structures they had found. This custom has persisted, leading to the bulk of root words in the English language being of Latin origin. The language of medicine has developed over time into several national medical languages. The most often used language for international communication nowadays is medical English. Most prestigious medical publications are in English, which is becoming the preferred language at international conferences (Alapatt, 2020).

Galen (A.D. 130–200), a Greek physician who published medical writings in his senior years, left behind some names for several ailments. These persisted in their influence for about 1,500 years. Many of the names of ailments and conditions that Galen coined have survived. This explains why Greek is the second most prevalent language derived from medical root words (Green, 2020).

Arabic is the source of other more ancient roots. This is because, during the medieval centuries, Arabic academics played a significant role as medical educators. The English language has specific influences on current languages. This reflects the English language’s dominance in medicine and the biological sciences during the last 50 years.

The Latin language modifies nouns using suffixes to indicate specific grammatical structures. Suffixes continued to be employed in medical contexts since Italian scientists often used them. Some prefixes are Latin word modifications. Instead of existing independently of the word they were altering, they were joined to root terms in medical terminology and descriptions. Prefixes are often used to denote places on the body or directions concerning planes or bodily structures.

Specific terms from biology are used in the current medical language. Many of these are the names of disease genera and species. Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the man who created the current taxonomy system, is credited with using Latin for these names. Consecutively, Latin was the language of educated people from around 1650 to 1850, with the development of the present system of medical nomenclature. The incorporation of so many linguistic components (prefixes, roots, and suffixes) from the Latin language is also due to this. Learning about medical history may give you a comprehensive understanding of the numerous factors at work.

Practical uses of Medical Terminologies

Enhances Medical Care

Patients sometimes do not comprehend physicians’ medical jargon to describe their conditions or recommended therapies. If the patient and the nurse do not understand each other, there may be many misunderstandings. The patient can ask the nurse what the doctor meant. When the whole healthcare staff uses the same language, the patient can understand it. In addition to increasing pleasure, effective patient education may also increase the patient’s desire to participate.

Ensures Consistent Care

The language of medicine, or medical terminology, has long been considered an essential component of the healthcare sector. People and computers must utilize healthcare language since electronic health records are used everywhere. Specific medical phrases and codes utilize this nomenclature. Administrative codes, clinical codes, reference terminologies, and interface terminologies are the four categories of codes used in healthcare.

Medical practitioners can communicate efficiently because they understand and use the same codes and terminology. They may all contribute to giving the most remarkable healthcare, whether a medical procedure, a health condition, or prescription medications, when they utilize the same medical or healthcare language. Everyone knowing and using the same language ensures uniform treatment, whether during HIPAA compliance training, staff instructions, or reviewing a patient’s file.

Improved patient safety

In order to avoid accidents, medical issues, and litigation, patient safety is crucial. There are fewer chances of errors being made when the whole healthcare team uses effective and consistent communication. For instance, the doctor can more accurately diagnose the condition and devise a treatment plan if they can read the patient’s file correctly. A patient’s treatment may be significantly altered if incorrect medical language is utilized. An incorrect diagnosis or treatment course might be dangerous or even deadly.

Improvements in Healthcare Efficiency

A healthcare worker may not always have time to provide detailed descriptions in the charts due to the number of patients they visit during the day. Nurses and other medical professionals may be unable to comprehend what is stated, even if they do. The finest treatment can be given to the patient if all medical staff use the same medical or health language so that they can all comprehend what is written on the patient’s record. Not needing to inquire about what is printed on the patient’s history also saves time. The billing and reimbursement process also uses medical language and codes, which improves patient care overall by reducing the possibility that the patient may be charged for the incorrect operation.

Therefore, comprehending medical terminologies and clearly understanding their history and how they evolved is essential. Medical practitioners and those aspiring to practice in health care should appreciate the history and contribute to its advancement.


Alapatt, V. A. (2020). The Importance of Encompassing Medical History in Pre-Medicine.

Green, T. M. (2020). The Greek & Latin Roots of English. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Kujawska-Lis, E. (2018). Synonyms in Medical Terminology: Confusion for Inexperienced Translators?. Papers in linguistics20(1), 83-99.


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