Feb 25, 2014

Biological Terms

One of the keys to being successful in biology is being able to understand the terminology. Difficult biology words and terms can be made easy to understand by becoming familiar with common prefixes and suffixes used in biology. These affixes, derived from Latin and Greek roots, form the basis for many difficult biology words.
Below is a list of a few biology words and terms that many biology students find difficult to understand. By breaking these words down into discrete units, even the most complex terms can be understood. 
1. Autotroph
This word can be separated as follows: Auto - troph.
Auto - means self, troph - means nourish. Autotrophs are organisms capable of self nourishment.
2. Cytokinesis
This word can be separated as follows: Cyto - kinesis.
Cyto - means cell, kinesis - means movement. Cytokinesis refers to the movement of the cytoplasm that produces distinct daughter cells during cell division.
3. Eukaryote
This word can be separated as follows: Eu - karyo - te.
Eu - means true, karyo - means nucleus. A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain a "true" membrane bound nucleus.
4. Heterozygous
This word can be separated as follows: Hetero - zyg - ous.
Hetero - means different, zyg - means yolk or union, ous - means characterized by or full of. Heterozygous refers to a union characterized by the joining of two different alleles for a given trait.
5. Hydrophilic
This word can be separated as follows: Hydro - philic.
Hydro - refers to water, philic - means love. Hydrophilic means water-loving.
6. Oligosaccharide
This word can be separated as follows: Oligo - saccharide.
Oligo - means few or little, saccharide - means sugar. An oligosaccharide is a carbohydrate that contains a small number of component sugars.
7. Osteoblast
This word can be separated as follows: Osteo - blast.
Osteo - means bone, blast - means bud or germ (early form of an organism). An osteoblast is a cell from which bone is derived.
8. Tegmentum
This word can be separated as follows: Teg - ment - um.
Teg - means cover, ment - refers to mind or brain. The tegmentum is the bundle of fibers that cover the brain.
Yes, this is an actual word. What does it mean? Biology can be filled with words that sometimes seem incomprehensible. By "dissecting" these words into discrete units, even the most complex terms can be understood. To demonstrate this concept, let's begin by performing biology word dissections on the word above.
To perform our biology word dissection, we'll need to proceed carefully. First, we come to the prefix (pneu-), or (pneumo-) which means lung. Next, is ultra, meaning extreme, and microscopic, meaning small. Now we come to (silico-), which refers to silicon, and (volcano-) which refers to the mineral particles that make up a volcano. Then we have (coni-), a derivative of the Greek word konis meaning dust. Finally, we have the suffix (-osis) which means affected with. Now lets rebuild what we have dissected:
Considering the prefix (pneumo-) and the suffix (-osis), we can determine that the lungs are affected with something. But what? Breaking down the rest of the terms we get extremely small (ultramicroscopic) silicon (silico-) and volcanic (volcano-) dust (coni-) particles. Thus, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is a disease of the lungs resulting from the inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust. That wasn't so difficult, now was it?
Now that we've honed our dissection skills, let's try some frequently used biology terms. For instance:
(Arth-) refers to joints and (-itis) means inflammation. Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint(s).
(Erythro-) means red and (-cyte) means cell. Erythrocytes are red blood cells.
Okay, let's move on to more difficult words. For instance:
Dissecting, we have (electro-), pertaining to electricity, (encephal-) meaning brain, and (-gram) meaning record. Together we have an electric brain record or EEG. Thus, we have a record of brain wave activity using electrical contacts.
Individuals with this disorder suffer from delusions and hallucinations. (Schis-) means split and (phren-) means mind.
These are ancient bacteria that live in extremely hot and acidic environments. (Therm-) means heat, next you have (-acid), and finally (phil-) means love. Together we have heat and acid lovers.
Once you understand the commonly used prefixes and suffixes, obtuse words are a piece of cake! Now that you know how to apply the word dissection technique, I'm sure you'll be able to determine the meaning of the word thigmotropism (thigmo - tropism).