Biology: Prefixes and Suffixes

Biology prefixes and suffixes are interesting. Understanding them makes it easier to understand unfamilar words. Many of the words used in scientific subjects such as biology, medicine, and health sciences may initially seem to be long, complicated, and unfamiliar. This is partly because many technical terms are derived from Greek or Latin words not in common use in English.

Knowledge of the general meaning of a

  • prefix (that is the beginning part of a word)
    or
  • suffix (that is the end part of a word)

can make it easier to recognise and understand unfamiliar words.


The following list is to assist younger students e.g. of GCSE Biology, as taught to UK students aged 14-16. It is about biology generally (not just animal or human biology), so includes terms about both plants and animals.

Source of
Prefix / Suffix

Term with meaning in English

Examples

Greek

autos = self

e.g. autotroph

Greek

bios = life

e.g. biology, biomass

Latin

bis = twice

e.g. binary fission, bicuspid valve

Greek

chloros = (pale) green

e.g. chlorophyll, chloropsia

Greek

chroma = colour

e.g. chromatopsia, chromosome (because it takes-up coloured stains)

Greek

dia = across

e.g. diaphragm, dialysis

Greek

dis = twice

e.g. dichromatic, diploid, dipeptide

Greek

ektos = outside

e.g. ectoparasite

Greek

epi = upon (above)

e.g. epicotyl, epidermis

Greek

exo = outside

e.g. excocytosis, exoskeleton

Greek

haima = blood

e.g. haemoglobin, haemophilia

Greek

heteros = other (different)

e.g. heterozygous

Greek

homos = same

e.g. homologous, homozygous

Greek

hypo = under

e.g. hypocotyl, hypothermia

Latin

inter = between

e.g. inter-cellular, intercostal

Latin

intra = within

e.g. intra-cellular, intra-uterine

Greek

kytos = vessel (a cell)

e.g. cytoplasm, erythrocyte, leucocyte

Greek

lipos = fat

e.g. lipase, lipid

Greek

lysis = dissolution

e.g. dialysis, lysozyme

Greek

mesos = middle

e.g. mesenteric, mesophyll

Greek

meta = after (change)

e.g. metamorphosis

Greek

mikros = little

e.g. micropyle, microvilli

Greek

morphe = form (shape)

e.g. metamorphosis, morphology

Greek

phagein = to eat

e.g. oesophagus, phagocyte

Greek

phyllon = leaf

e.g. chlorophyll, mesophyll

Greek

phyton = plant

e.g. phytoplankton, saprophyte

Greek

polys = many

e.g. polypeptide, polysaccharide

Greek

protos = first formed

e.g. protista, protoplasm

Greek

rhiza = root

e.g. rhizoid, rhizome

Latin

semi = half

e.g. semicircular canal, semilunar valves

Latin

sub = under

e.g. sub-cutaneous, subclavian, subsoil

Greek

sym- , syn- = together

e.g. symbiosis, synapse

Greek

treis = three

e.g. triceps brachii, tricuspid valve, tripeptide

Greek

trophe = food

e.g. autotroph, trophic level

Latin

unus = one

e.g. unicellular, unisexual

Latin

vas = vessel

e.g. vascular bundle, vaso-dilation, vasodilator

Greek

zoion = animal

e.g. zoology, zooplankton

Greek

zygon = yolk

e.g. homozygous, zygote


For more Latin words see the page of Latin Names of Bach Flowers.

Biology Textbooks

Statistics for Field Biology Systems Biology

In the News:

Cranberry Harvest underway in USA - 5 Oct '18

By 2043 obesity might exceed smoking as the largest preventable cause of cancer in women - 25 Sep '18

Total retail sales of herbal supplements in the USA exceeded $8 Billion in 2017 - 13 Sep '18

It's a bumper blueberry season - 13 Jul '18

Heat-related health concerns for older adults increase during the summer - 28 Jun '18

U.S. FDA takes steps to advance health through improvements in nutrition - 27 Jun '18

Positive effects of exercise on blood cell populations - 20 Jun '18

Benefits of dementia friendly swimming opportunities - 30 May '18

Pope St Gregory I (c.540-604 CE) stated that there were nine ranks of angels in Heaven.

Although care has been taken when compiling this page, the information contained might not be completely up to date. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This material is copyright. See terms of use.

IvyRose Holistic 2003-2018.