Every profession has its jargon, a specialized language that allows for quick, efficient communication between members of the same profession while minimizing the potential for misunderstandings. Jargon is not unique to professions. Have you ever tried to understand two teenagers talking to each other? Adolescent slang serves some of the same purposes as a professional jargon including identifying “insiders” and excluding “outsiders.” However, it is in everyone’s interest to be an insider when it comes to medical terminology, the jargon of medicine. Being familiar with medical words makes your visit to the doctor less intimidating and, more importantly, enables you to make sound decisions about your health care in consultation with your family physician.

Medical terminology is a specialized language used by health care practitioners. And, just like a foreign language, it has its own vocabulary and ways of stringing together words in an acceptable, i.e., understandable to everyone, format. But, unlike a foreign language, you come across medical terminology every day in magazines and newspapers with articles about new drugs, diets, new medical treatments and on television medical dramas.

Who else may find this presentation useful? Applying to a medical professional school or recently accepted to one: medical, nursing, physical therapy? This program will provide you with a head start in learning “medical lingo.” Are you an attorney or legal assistant specializing in personal injury? What an advantage to be able to better communicate with clients and physicians! Work for an insurance company? Need I say more!

What follows is a mini-course in medical terminology. You will learn approximately 300 words. This may seem like a lot, but it is only a fraction of the words you would learn in a full academic course in the subject. However, the goal is not to learn a bunch of new words to impress your friends, but to learn the basics of what makes up medical terms so you can not only use and understand them yourself, but be able to recognize and learn new terms when you come across them in the future. Most of all, believe it or not, you are going to have fun! Many medical terms have interesting, even weird meanings or stories behind their evolution as words.

I will bet you already know some medical terms! Have you heard of an esophagus, the tube that connects your throat with your stomach? Esophagus comes from Greek words meaning “that which swallows what we eat.” How about Fallopian tubes? They are named after a 16th century Italian anatomist, Gabriello Fallopio. Okay, surely you have heard of a placenta! Placenta means a “flat cake” in Greek, simply describing its shape.

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