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Terms & Definitions

All areas of learning have their own terminology that allows for concise and effective communication between practitioners. Specific terminology decreases the chances of subjective interpretations of a practitioner's work while increasing accurate interpretations and replication (incredibly important in any applied, technical, or clinical field).  A student of biology will need to learn the technical words that are specific to various biological sub-fields. Understanding the terminology in a student’s chosen field and in similar fields will benefit that student over the course of their career.

Etymology is an explanation of the origin of a word and its 'life' history. A word may start out meaning one thing but as time goes by it may mean something very different. Word structure or, in the field of linguistics, morphology, is the arrangement of sounds in words. It is a good idea to study a word's etymology and the structure (i.e. prefix, root, and suffix) when learning a new word and its definition. Understanding structure will not only help a student remember the definition of a biology term but also help them learn new terms that have a similar structure.

When writing out the terms and definitions, use different colored pencils for each part of the word such as: 

  • Prefix– appears at the beginning of the word 
  • Root– words that have a meaning standing alone 
  • Suffix– appears at the end of the word and provides additional information

For those students continuing on to a graduate program, a health sciences program, or teaching in K-12, purchasing a definition book on prefixes, suffixes, & roots and/or a book on Latin and Greek roots would benefit their long term career goals.