Sunday, March 8, 2009

#2: Haima, haimatos--blood

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 post 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 post, 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. Help...I think that I'd better get my blood checked out!

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?

Interested in even more English vocabulary words that come from the Greek and Latin roots for blood, or all the roots mentioned above, such as glykys—sweet, toxicum--poision, hypo—under, below; oxys—sharp, keen, acid, or the various English vocabulary words that come from all the different roots words of the elements of the periodic table? All of the word roots mentioned above are accessible via the etymology site , on which 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, and a vast host of medical vocabulary.  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.