Many good returns, fans of etymology, Greek and Latin roots, and medical terminology! As with most academic disciplines, the learning of specialized vocabulary in the medical field can take years, but a great way to get a true leg up on learning this vast medical lexicon (which only gains more and more new words, or neologisms, on a daily basis) is understanding word origins, especially the Greek root words (and to a smaller extent the Latin roots) that form the linguistic infrastructure or core of medical vocabulary. You will recall that in my last aritcle I began illuminating the Greek root word neuron; this medical vocabulary article will focus on the study of neurology and the disciplines that neurologists, or those physicians that study the nervous system and its related ailments (neuropathology) specialize in, and the medical vocabulary primarily that they and only adventitiously those steeped in neuroscience (the field of study devoted to the nervous system, which includes multitudous disciplines as neuroanatomy, neurobiology, neurolinguistics, and neural networks) might encounter on a quotidian, or daily, basis. Let's review again the primary root words:

Neuron—sinew, tendon, nerve {neuro-}

Nervus (Lat.)—sinew, nerve, vigor, determination

Neuropathology is the study of the pathology, or diseases of, the nervous system; neuropathy, on the other hand, is the particular disease, ailment, or abnormality of the nervous system: neuropathology catalogues the symptomatology of various and sundry neuropathies. Note the root that forms a major stem of these words, the Greek root word pathos—suffering, disease, feeling, passion {-path, patho-, -pathy}, from which we get such English vocabulary words as sympathy, empathy, psychopath, apathetic, and pathogen.

A neuroma is a "mass of nerve" tissue that comprises a tumor. The Greek suffix -oma means "tumor" or "mass," and gives us such medical terms as lipoma, carcinoma, glaucoma,
melanoma, myxoma, and neurofibromatosis. Note that the word "tumor" comes from the Latin root word tumeo, tumere, tumui—to swell, which gives rise to such English derivatives as tumid, tumescence, contumelious, and tumorigenesis, et al.

Neurophysiology is the study of the functioning of the nervous system within a living organism, most especially the human. The word origin of physiology itself comes from the Greek root word physis—nature {physi-, physio-}, which is in turn related to the Greek root phyein—to produce, cause to grow, bring forth, which gives us such English vocabulary words as physician, physics, hypophysis, and even imp!

Neuropsychology is that specialized branch of psychology (the study of the mind, via the Greek root psyche--mind, soul, spirit) that deals with the interrelationship between primarily the brain (but also other parts of the central nervous system) and the functions of the brain, including memory and language. Neuropharmacology (via the Greek root pharmakon—remedy, drug) deals with the effects of various pharmaceuticals on the nervous system (naturally the words pharmacist and pharmacy derive from this same Greek root). Neurodegenerative pathologies deal with etiologies, or causes thereof, of gradual but progressive failure of neurological functions. A neurectomy is the surgical cutting out and removal of a nerve or part of a nerve (performed during neurosurgery by a neurosurgeon); the word origin of the suffix -tomy is derived from the Greek root word tomos—a cut, cutting, slice, section, part of a book {-tomy}, from which anatomy, appendectomy, vasectomy, hysterectomy, atom, and entomologist, to name a very few. And then there is one of my favorite words, psychoneuroimmunology, a field of medical study that analyzes the influence of emotional states (as stress) and the functioning of the nervous system on the immune system; cf. the uncommon word kedogenous, or pertaining to pathologies produced by stress specific to worries and anxiety.

Author's Bio: 

Brett Brunner has been teaching Latin and English vocabulary in college-prep schools for seventeen years, as well as summer courses targeting the verbal section of the SAT. He spent eleven years at Saint Mary’s Hall in San Antonio, TX, where he presided as the chair of the Language Department, overseeing the Spanish, Japanese, French, and Latin programs; in addition, he taught Latin, etymology, philosophy, and world history. He designed a course in Greek and Latin roots to build vocabulary in the mid 90s, from which he had the idea of creating his own comprehensive Greek and Latin roots textbook, Word Empire, which is now used by numerous schools and individuals, and includes distribution through the American Classical League. He spent the academic year of 2000-2001 on sabbatical, finishing Word Empire, and recently completed Word Empire III: Clarity; he also wrote a book on teaching methodology, entitled Chaos Motivation, which describes his unique, infrastructural motivational methodology--he finished the second edition of Chaos Motivation in the fall of 2006. He holds an undergraduate honors degree from UW Madison, and an M.A. in English from the University of Virginia; he has continued his studies in Latin at the University of Georgia at Athens. He was awarded the prestigious Master Teacher's award at Saint Mary's Hall in the fall of 2003 for his success in motivating students at the middle and upper-school levels. In June of 2005, Mr. Brunner was named Teen Ink’s Educator of the Year. Mr. Brunner regularly presents his learning English vocabulary methodology at conferences, the most recent being at Vanderbilt University for the American Classical League. He currently teaches Latin at Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes a Latin roots SAT word of the day column on the school's web site, and also frequently contributes to his Greek and Latin roots blog.