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The Listening Post

More Fun with Morphemes

The great thing about medical terminology is that it does not just teach about medicine or the human body. It has its roots in more general scientific terminology. The rules of word formation are the same. In fact, I first came to the world of medical terminology through my non-medical science degree in anthropology. 

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Chalasia and Achalasia

Chalasia and achalasia – do you know these terms? The ‘ch’ is pronounced like a ‘k.’ These are two opposite conditions, but both can wreak havoc in the digestive tract. Chalasia is from the Greek chalasis, meaning "relaxation or loosening of." The ‘a’ in achalasia indicates “not” or “lack of.” The thing we are talking about relaxing or not relaxing is the lower esophageal sphincter.


From Greek:

Poly meaning "many" + dactylos meaning "digit" + y meaning "characterized by".


This is a congenital condition, sometimes inherited, where a child is born with an extra finger or toe. According to Boston Children's Hospital, this condition occurs in just 0.01 to 0.02 percent of the population. Most commonly, the extra digit occurs on one side as a small deformed off-shoot of the pinky, though other positions on the hand or foot are possible, including in a middle finger or as a duplication of the thumb. If the digit does not include any bone or muscle tissue, an in-office clipping or tying-off procedure is possible, otherwise surgery may be required to remove the deformed digit.


Images by BigStock

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