Medical Terminology

Study medical terminology online. Improve your ability to communicate with health professionals. Useful for professional development in the medical and health fields. A 100 hour distance learning course.

Course Code: BSC109
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Train in Medical Terminology to improve your job and career prospects in the health or medical fields.

This course is suitable for anyone working in or wanting to work in the health or medical professions.

Many if not most jobs, in health services, are positions other than being a doctor or a nurse. Many of those who may start out with aspirations of being a medical practitioner, will in fact, end up working in some other health support role; perhaps medical administration, marketing or as a technical assistant. Others who start in these roles, may end up going on to become a doctor.   Ambition is good; but your eventual job always depends upon much more than just what you study.

Whatever you end up doing though - this is a good starting point for a possible career in the health industry.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Medical Terminology
    • What is Medical Terminology.
    • Origins of Words.
    • Structure of Words.
    • Medical Prefixes.
    • Medical Suffixes.
    • Constructing Medical Terms by altering prefix or suffix.
  2. Anatomical Structure
    • Anatomical Prefixes.
    • Anatomical Suffixes.
    • Locating parts of the body.
    • Terms to indicate positioning of anatomical features in body.
    • Acronyms.
    • Symbols.
  3. Medical Equipment and Procedures
    • Terms to describe Diagnostic and Surgical Procedures.
    • Terms to describe Medical Equipment.
    • Storage and Handling of Medicines.
    • Sterilising Equipment.
    • Terms to describe Bacteria.
    • Gram Staining.
    • Diagnostic Microbiology.
    • Research Microbiology.
    • Types of Wounds.
    • Problems Resulting from Wounds.
    • Treating Wounds.
    • Electrolytes.
    • Examples of Prefixes and Suffixes.
  4. Pharmacological Terminology
    • Types of herbal and pharmaceutical medicines (e.g. Alkaloids, Calmatives, Cathartics, Decongestants, Expectorants, etc.).
    • Pharmacological Terms (e.g. Allergens, Carcinogens, Photosensitisers, Toxic Alkaloids, etc.).
    • Over the Counter Prescription Drugs.
    • Terminology for OTC and Prescription Drugs (e.g. Steroids, Barbiturates, anti-Psychotic Drugs etc.).
    • Prefix and suffix examples.
  5. Musculoskeletal System Terminology
    • Naming main muscles.
    • Musculature ... Types of Muscle tissue.
    • Relationship between muscles and bone.
    • Bone and Joint problems (e.g. Sprains, Broken Bones, etc.).
    • Disorders of musculoskeletal System (e.g. Fibromyalgia, Sprains, strains, Cramp, etc.).
    • Suffix Examples.
  6. Cardiovascular, Lymphatic and Immune Systems Terminology
    • Parts of the Heart.
    • Circulation.
    • Systole and Diastole.
    • Terms related to Disorders of Cardiovascular System.
    • Lymphatic System and Immunity.
    • Leucocytes.
    • Vaccination.
    • Immunity.
    • Disorders of Immunity.
    • Suffix and Prefix Examples.
  7. Respiratory and Reproductive Systems Terminology
    • Lungs.
    • Respiration.
    • Pulmonary Circulation.
    • Gas Exchange (Diffusion, Perfusion, Arterial Pressure).
    • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
    • Diagnostic Procedures for Lungs and Airways.
    • Respiratory Disorders.
    • Male Reproductive System.
    • Female Reproductive System.
    • Pregnancy.
    • Parturition.
    • Caesarian Section, VBAC and Multiple Gestation.
    • Premature Birth and Miscarriage.
    • Reproductive Disorders (e.g. Amenorrhoea, Menorhagia, PCOS, Endometriosis, etc.).
    • Suffix and Prefix Examples.
  8. Digestive and Excretory Systems Terminology
    • Parts of the Digestive System.
    • Renal System.
    • Kidneys.
    • Ureters and Bladder.
    • Urethra.
    • Disorders of Digestive and Renal Systems (e.g. Anal Fissure, Haemorrhoids, Inflammatory Bowel System, Kidney Stones, Pancreatitis, etc.).
    • Suffix and Prefix Examples.
  9. Integumentary System (Skin) Terminology
    • Thermoregulation.
    • Electrolytes.
    • Types of Sensory Nerves.
    • Sun Protection.
    • Intergument Structure.
    • Cell Types.
    • Disorders (e.g. Scab, Atrophic skin, Abrasion, Excoriation, Scar, Ulcer, etc.).
    • Diagnostic Procedures.
    • Suffix and Prefix Examples.
  10. Nervous and Sensory Systems Terminology
    • Brain.
    • Central Nervous System.
    • Peripheral Nervous System.
    • Disorders of Nervous System.
    • Disorders of Sensory System (e.g. Aphasia, Apraxia, Vertigo, etc.).
    • Diagnostic Procedures.
    • Suffix and Prefix Examples.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Communicate clearly and effectively using medical terminology
  • Explain the scope and nature of terminology used in medicine and allied professions.
  • Identify the meaning of words that describe general anatomical features, including dsorders
  • Identify the meaning of words which describe medical tools, equipment and procedures.
  • Identify the meaning of words that describe pharmacological terms.
  • Identify the meaning of words that describe physiological and anatomical features in the musculoskeletal system, including disorders.
  • Identify the meaning of words that describe physiological and anatomical features in the respiratory and reproductive systems, including disorders.
  • Identify the meaning of words that describe physiological and anatomical features in the digestive and excretory systems, including disorders.
  • Identify the meaning of words that describe physiological and anatomical features in the nervous and sensory systems, including disorders.

The origins of words for medical terms

  • There are two types of medical terms:
    Eponyms - Words that are created by naming something after a person or after something else e.g. a disease named after the person who discovered it.
  • Systematically Constructed Words - Medical terms created systematically using other words, or parts of (or derivations from) other words, typically Ancient Greek words or Latin words.

There has been a trend starting over the late 20th century, to replace eponyms with systematically constructed words e.g. Parkinson’s disease has been renamed “paralysis agitans".

The advantage of a systematically constructed word is that the components of the word can tell us something about the meaning of the term.

By developing an understanding of the components that are commonly used in these systematically constructed words it is (in time) easier to both understand and remember the meanings of the terminology.

The Structure of Words

There are three parts to most medical terms:

  1. Prefix - This is normally at the start and commonly identifies a part of the core meaning.
  2. Word Root - This is usually the middle of the word and provides its core meaning.
  3. Suffix - This comes at the end and modifies the core meaning (e.g. What it is interacting with or what is happening to it)?

For example, the word myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) is constructed systematically from the following:

myo (prefix) means muscle

card (root) means heart

itis (suffix) means inflammation

By changing the prefix only, a new word (pericarditis) can be created. 

Peri-means ‘the outer layer’, so pericarditis is a condition where the outer layer of the heart is inflamed.

This course has relevance to a wide range of professions

Medical terminology is not only used in medicine by doctors and nurses, but is also used in a wide range of associated professions. These related professions include -

  • dentistry,
  • veterinary care,
  • medical practice managers,
  • medical receptionists and many types of natural therapies.

This course is aimed to develop your awareness of terms not only used by doctors and nurses, but also by other allied professionals.

Anyone working in any of these professions will benefit from doing this course.




ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

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This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Karen Lee

Nutritional Scientist, Dietician, Teacher and Author.
BSc. Hons. (Biological Sciences), Postgraduate Diploma Nutrition and Dietetics.
Registered dietitian in the UK, with over 15 years working in the NHS. Karen has undertaken a number of research projects and has lectured to undergraduate university students. Has co authored two books on nutrition and several other books in health sciences.

Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.

Tracey Jones (Psychologist)

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE.
Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc.
25 years industry experience in writing, editing, education, psychology, and business. Tracey has several books and hundreds of articles published; in both fiction and non fiction.

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