Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kardia: heart

After having fully discussed the Latin root cor, cordis: "heart" last week in honor of Valentine's Day, and illustrating the large number of English vocabulary words that derive from that powerful Latin root, I shall now leap into a Greek root for a change. Greek vocabulary, especially when it comes to parts of the body, plays a larger role in medical terminology, such as anatomy, than their semantic counterparts in the Latin language. So, although the Latin root cor, cordis is a prolific provider of vocabulary for the English language, it does not contribute much to the medical field, but rather its related rival, the Greek root kardia, does:

Kardia—heart {card, cardio-}

We can note as we head on into these medical terms that the Greek letter kappa (k) becomes a hard "c" in English. CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, has to do with reviving an unconscious and unbreathing/unheartbeating (yes, a thorough misuse of the English language, but boy was it fun!) patient via techiques for getting the lungs (pulmonary derives from the Latin pulmo, pulmonis—lung: yes, we have already found an exception to the rule stated above; the Greek word for lung is pneumon—lung {pneumo-}, also a highly prolific source of medical terminology...such as pneumonoconiosis, pneumonia, and pneumogastric...not to mention the longest word in most English dictionaries, that is, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a disease that coal miners contract by breathing in fine silica dust). The Greek word for lung here is a more prolific source of medical terminology than the Latin root for lung; and also remember that the only exception to the rule that states that there is no exception to any rule is the rule itself (just in the same way that a Universal Solvent cannot exist because it would, well, dissolve itself, not to mention the Universe within which it exists). And note that the word "resuscitation," a tough word to spell if you do not know the Latin roots behind it, comes from the Latin root word cito, citare, citavi, citatum—to set in motion, rouse, excite, hence, to resuscitate is to ‘set (one) in motion again.’ entire entry for a simple three-letter pseudo-acronym: CPR.

The word cardiovascular refers to the heart and its system of blood vessels, including the arteries, veins, and capillaries (the word vascular comes from the Latin vasculum—small vessel {vessel}). A cardiologist is one who studies the heart, that is, a heart doctor, one who is intimately familiar with the myocardial infarction, or cardiac arrest, or heart attack, in which the cardiac muscle, or muscle of the heart, stops. A cardiologist is intimately familiar, in turn, with the study of cardiology, which concerns the pathology (diseases inherent to), structure, and function of the said cardiac muscle. Many, many terms come from the study of cardiology, such as the pericardium, that fluid-filled sac that envelops the heart and its vasculature, the epicardium, that part of the pericardium that sits on top of the actual heart muscle (via the Greek prefix epi-upon, over), tachycardia, a disease of the heart in which it is pulsing too swiftly, bradycardia, the opposite malady of tachycardia, and myocarditis, the inflammation of the heart muscle. This is a small sampling of the cardiological terminology of or relating to the heart, probably the most important muscle of the body, to which an entire association has been dedicated, the American Heart Association.

Interested in even more English vocabulary words that come from the Greek and Latin roots for heart? Just what does that prefix tachy- mean in tachycardia? Or brady- in bradycardia? Or the suffix -itis of carditis? Or the myo- Greek root and -pathy suffix of cardiomyopathy? With a thorough understanding of Greek and Latin root words, one can easily pick apart words that look difficult, such as cineangiocardiography, and become at least an etymological cardiologist...demystification of words is what the site is all about, not to mention the demystifying of numerous SAT prep words and GRE prep words. You may want to check out the most comprehensive Greek and Latin roots dictionary available today; a Greek and Latin roots poster is also available, which beautifully illustrates not only the sheer power of Greek and Latin roots as they form the very semantic structure of the English language but also contains a prolific number of GRE and SAT vocabulary words.  Or, if you're looking to learn vocabulary for the SAT or GRE verbal section, check out, where vocabulary is taught to you via an Adaptive Reinforcement Engine in a fun and engaging way which at the same time enhances your memory..