Welcome back, aficionados of classical word origin as it relates to medical terminology, for my third and final discussion concerning the Greek root tomos: a cut, cutting, slice, section. You will recall that in my last article I began discussing numerous surgical operations/procedures that have their word origins in the Greek root word tomos. The acquisition of specialized medical vocabulary can take years, but a most expeditious way to learn our vast English and medical lexicon (which only gains more and more new words, or neologisms, on a daily basis) is understanding word origin, especially Greek and Latin roots that form the linguistic infrastructure or core of most medical vocabulary, and of most English vocabulary for that matter.

To review from last week's discussion, surgeons often perform operations that involve cutting into (incision) parts of the body, primarily for removal (excision); note that the words "incision" and "excision" from from the Latin root word caedo, caedere, cecidi, caesum: to cut, kill. Note that the suffix -tomy is involved in each of these words, which indicates an incision and/or excision of a designated area of the body (note also that the omnipresent "-ec-" prior to each -tomy comes from the Greek root word ec, ex—out of, from).

anthropotomy: Via the Greek root word anthropos: man or human, this is an anatomical word discussing the dissection of the human body in contradistinction to the anatomy of other animals; anthropos gives us such words as anthropology, anthropomorphic, misanthropist, and philanthropy. Androtomy is a synomyn (via the Greek root word aner, andros—man, husband {ander, andro-, -androus, -andry}, from which root we get such scientific vocabulary words as android, polyandrous, androgynous, and androgen.

salpingectomy: the surgical removal of one or both of the Fallopian tubes; this is also called a tubectomy. The primary root is the Greek noun salpinx, salping-, which means trumpet, since the anatomical structure of the fallopian (or Fallopian) tube itself suggests the shape of a trumpet (interestingly enough the Italian anatomist Gabriele Fallopio gave his name to this part of the female anatomy; an example of an eponym, which are legion in English vocabulary).

hepatectomy: The surgical excision of all of part of the liver, via the Greek root word hepar, hepatos—the liver {hepato-}, which has given the medical lexicon such gems as hepatitis (note that the suffix -itis means disease of or inflammation of), hepatolith (via the Greek root lithos: stone), hepatotoxicity, and hepatoflavin.

lipectomy: often used in plastic surgery, this involves the excision or removal of excess fatty tissue. The Greek word lipos: fat, gives us such words as lipid, lipoma, lipoprotein, and phospholipid. Cf. suction lipectomy.

pleurotomy: incision of the pleura, that serous membrane which envelops mammalian lungs, via the Greek root word pleura (Gr.)—side, rib (word origin of pleurisy, pleuropneumonia, and pleurodont). Also called a thoracotomy (the opening of and incision of the pleural cavity).

adenotomy: incision of or dissection of the glands. Via the Greek root word aden: gland, derivations of which include adenoid, adenovirus, and adenocarcinoma.

rumenotomy: a veterinary surgical procedure, this is the cutting into the rumen, via the Latin root word rumen, ruminis, source of such English vocabulary words as ruminate, ruminant, and rumenocentesis (cf. amniocentesis).

omphalotomy: the cutting of the umbilical cord at parturition. Via the Greek root word omphalos, navel, the English exonym "omphalos" comes from this word, which describes an ancient stone or artifact usually of a religious nature, the most famous of which resides in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the position of which is supposed to represent the exact center, or "navel," of the Greek world.

posthetomy: circumcision.

With that, I leave the Greek root word tomos. I shall focus next time on the Greek root word pathos, and the SAT vocabulary that derives from that word root.

Interested in the power of Greek and Latin roots as the core of English vocabulary? All of the word roots mentioned above are accessible via the etymology site www.wordempire.com, on which you may view the most comprehensive Greek and Latin roots dictionary available today.

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.