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Question: How do I decide which word part to use when there is more than one choice?

Answer: It is often helpful to think of selecting the word part that is the most “user-friendly” to pronounce and that sounds best to the ear.


Example: Create a term that means “pertaining to the neck.”

Choosing a combining form is easy because there is only one, cervic/o, which means “neck.” However, there are 12 suffixes that mean “pertaining to.” These are listed below with the selected combining form. Try pronouncing each version of the new term listed below. The first one, cervical, is the easiest to pronounce and sounds best to the ear.

  • cervical

  • cervicac

  • cervicar

  • cervicary

  • cerviceal

  • cervicial

  • cervicic

  • cervicical

  • cervicory

  • cervicous

  • cervicotic

  • cervicotous

Question: What if two options seem equally correct and desirable?

Answer: Use the term preferred by your colleagues or facility.

Example: Create a term that means “pain of the neck.”

There are two possible options: cervicalgia and cervicodynia. Either one is technically correct. There is no harm in asking a colleague which term should be used. As you converse with and listen to your fellow medical professionals, you will quickly learn the preferred terminology.

Question: When a term includes more than one combining form, how do I know what order to put them in?

Answer: If the term refers to a procedure, place the word parts in the order that corresponds with the procedure. If the term pertains to anatomy, move from most proximal to most distal.

Example: Create a term that means “visual examination of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.”

As this procedure is performed, the scope first enters the esophagus, then the stomach, and then the duodenum. So when you create the medical term, put the word parts in the same order (with the suffix last): esophag/o, gastr/o, duoden/o,-scopy.

Question: I hear some terms pronounced in more than one way. How do I know which pronunciation is correct?

Answer: First, refer to the pronunciation guide in this book. It should guide you in most cases. Second, in some cases, more than one pronunciation may be considered acceptable. Third, remember that the most common mistake people make is to emphasize the wrong syllable. When word parts are linked with a combining vowel (usually o), the emphasis is usually on the syllable with the combining vowel.

Example: The tendency is to pronounce colonoscopy as kō -lŏn-ō-SKŌ -pē. But the correct pronunciation is kō -lŏn-ŎS-kō-pē.

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