Greetings fans of etymology, Greek and Latin roots, and medical terminology! As with all 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 huge medical lexicon is understanding the Greek root words (and to a smaller extent the Latin roots) that make up most of medical vocabulary. You will recall that in my last article I began speaking about the Greek root for blood (haima, haimatos), which is the word origin for numerous medical terms that I discussed in my last word origins article, such as anemia, hemoglobin, hemophilia, hemorrhoid, hemorrhage, and hematology. I stated at the end of that etymology discussion that I would continue speaking about hematological pathology, or those diseases of the blood. Let's review quickly again the multifarious spelling changes that the Greek root for blood undergoes:

Haima, haimatos—blood {em, -emia, haemo-, hem, hemat-, hemato-, hemo-}

You will discover in today's post the wealth of Greek roots that exist when it comes to medical vocabulary, and how easily they are strung together to form a host of medical vocabulary words, much of which is based upon ancient Greek. So let's begin.

Let's start out with the various diseases or conditions of the blood that hematologists are aware of. The suffix -emia simply means "the abnormal or pathological condition of the blood," of which, unfortunately, there can be a large number. I will speak of a few:

toxemia: (via the Latin root toxicum—poison): a condition in which the blood is being poisoned by proteins being produced by body cells, either via sepsis or microorganisms, such as bacteria. This is commonly referred to as blood poisoning.

glycemia (via the Greek root glykys—sweet {gluc, glyc, glyco-}), the presence of glucose in the blood (glucose, of course, being "sweet"), and its related abnormal conditions, such as hypoglycemia (via the Greek preposition hypo—under, below {hypo-}), the presence of too little glucose in the blood (low blood sugar), or hyperglycemia (via the Greek preposition hyper—over, above, thoroughly), having too high a concentration of glucose in the blood (high blood sugar). Another word related to this is hyperemia, when too much blood flows to part of the body, whereas hypoxemia (via the Greek root oxys—sharp, keen, acid) is having too little oxygen in the blood (yet again another abnormal condition).

An interesting condition of the blood that is related to geography is thallasemia (via the Greek root thalassa--sea) which is a blood condition (a form of anemia) inherited by those living near the (Mediterranean) Sea. Too much cholesterol in the blood? Hypercholesterolemia. Too little? Hypocholesterolemia. Hypernatremia? Too much sodium in the blood due to high salt (or sodium chloride: NaCl) intake, via the Latin root natrium, sodium--another demystifying word that clears up learning for chemistry students of the Periodic Table of the Elements, hmm, let's see:

Fe: from the Latin ferrum: iron
Ag: from the Latin argentum: silver
Au: from the Latin aurum: gold
Pb: from the Latin plumbum: lead
Hg: from the Greek hydrargyros: silver water
Sn: from the Latin stannum: tin
Cu: from the Latin cuprum: copper

And two last pathological blood conditions:

oligocythemia: (via the Greek root oligos: few): having two few red blood cells in the body, that is, a paucity of erythrocytes
hypogammaglobulinemia: A decreased quantity of immunoglobulins in the blood, that is, of gamma globulins, especially antibodies.

This is but a small fraction of all the multifarious abnormalities that the blood can have. And is there a word for those who faint upon the sight of blood? Yup, you guessed it, hemophobia; any bets out there that there are at least one or two hemophobes that are also hematologists?

The web site www.wordempire.com discusses the core roots of the English language, on which you will discover not only many of the roots discussed above, but a great number more.

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.