Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tomos II: a cut, cutting, slice, section, part of a book

Welcome, fans of Greek and Latin roots, and devotees of medical terminology! Today's posting will consider primarily medical vocabulary as it relates to the Greek root tomos. As with intense academic disciplines, the learning of specialized vocabulary in the medical field can take years, but a most expeditious way to learn our vast English and medical lexicon (which only gains more and more new words, or neologisms, on a daily basis) is understanding word origins, especially Greek and Latin roots that form the linguistic infrastructure or core of most medical vocabulary.
You will recall that in my last weekly post, I began discussing medical and SAT vocabulary from the Greek root word tomos; this primarily medical vocabulary blog offering will focus on word origins concerning the Greek root word tomos: a cut, cutting, slice, section, part of a book.
Surgeons often perform operations that involve cutting into (incision) parts of the body, primarily for removal (excision): note that the words "incision" and "excision" from from the Latin root word caedo, caedere, a root which I discussed in a prior caedo, caedere, cecidi, caesum post. Let's review some medical terminology involved in this area, and the roots related to that medical vocabulary. Note that the suffix -tomy is involved in each of these words, which indicates an incision and/or excision of an area of the body which forms the main root of the word (note also that the omnipresent "-ec-" prior to each -tomy comes from the Greek root word ec, ex—out of, from).

episiotomy: an incision performed by obstetricians into the perineum to widen the birth canal to facilitate parturition (via the Latin root pario, parere, peperi, partum—to give birth, produce, come to sight).

hysterectomy: surgical removal of the uterus, via the Greek root hystera—uterus, womb; and yes, the word "hysteria" does derive from this root word because physicians once believed that a woman’s womb could engender ‘extreme excitability’ or ‘emotional overflow.' Of course, this was around the same time that balancing humors was all the rage: medieval medicine taught that the body possessed four fluids or humors: black bile, yellow bile (choler), blood, and phlegm; the relative concentrations of these four humors, different for each person, determined mood, health, and general disposition. n.b. in time, the word humor became related simply to one’s mood (as in a person being in a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ humor), and eventually evolved into the more specific meaning of ‘funniness.’

vasectomy: surgical excision of all or part of the vas deferens (that duct of the male body that carries the semen from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct); via the Latin root vas—vessel, container {vaso-}.

gastrectomy: via the Greek root gaster, gastros—stomach, belly {gastro-}, this refers to the whole or partial excision of the stomach.

mastectomy: via the Greek root word mastos—breast {masto-}; the removal of all or part of the breast, usually due to breast cancer. An interesting related word is "mastodon," so named because the crowns of its molars were shaped like ‘breasts.’

mastoidectomy: surgical removal of all or part of the mastoid process (posterior portion of the temporal bone located behind the ear) or mastoid sinuses, also from the Greek root mastos due to its conical shape

orchiectomy or orchidectomy: surgical removal or one or both (gulp) testicles or testes (from the Latin root word testis—witness, proof, indicator; prolific root word of test, testament, intestate, testify, etc.)

rhytidectomy: medical terminology for a face lift. Via the Greek root rhytís: wrinkle, so, the surgical removal of wrinkles.

Please visit again next week as I will be discussing the following surgical operations and their most interesting word origins:


Interested in word origin? In the power of Greek and Latin roots as the core of English vocabulary? Want even more English vocabulary words that come from the Greek and Latin roots for tomos? Or more English vocabulary words that derive from the Latin verb pario, parere, peperi, partum—to give birth, produce, come to sight, or to what the "deferens" in "vas deferens" refers? What other English vocabulary words does the Latin root testis—witness, proof, indicator vie the English language? All of the word roots mentioned above are accessible via the etymology site http://www.wordempire.com/, on which you may view 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 includes a vast host of medical vocabulary.  Or, if you're looking to learn vocabulary for the SAT or GRE verbal section, check out membean.com, 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.