Medical Terminology of the Endocrine System

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This article covers the medical terminology of the endocrine system. The endocrine system consists of a series of organs and glands throughout the body that produce, store, and secrete special chemical messengers. These chemical messengers are hormones. Hormones travel through the blood to specific target cells throughout the body.

This article will contain a list of word roots, and a few additional suffixes and prefixes related to the endocrine system. There are terms related to endocrine system specialties and the definitions. There is also a list of endocrine system structures and procedures. Finally, there is a list of some diseases and conditions related to the endocrine system.

If you need a background on how medical terms are formed, read the article on Medical Terminology Basics. Also, the article 11 Rules for Changing Singular Terms to Plural Terms is a good article for the use of singular and plural endings. This article will begin with a review of the basic prefixes and suffixes that can be used for all body systems.

Review of Prefixes

This section contains prefixes that are used for the medical terminology of most systems. Prefixes are used at the beginning of a word to modify or vary the meaning of the word. When the prefixes are detached from a term, it is followed by a hyphen (-).

a-, an-no, not, without, away
brady- slow
dia-apart, through
end-, endo-within, inside
exo-outside of, without
epi- above
hyper- excessive
hypo- insufficient
inter- between
intra- middle
medial-situated or pertaining to the middle
normo- normal
per- through
peri- around
physio-, physi-related to nature or physiology
poly- many
pro-before, for, in front of, from, in behalf of, on account of
re-back, again
retro-behind, back, backward
sub-under, below, beneath, in small quantity, less than normal
syn-, sy-, syl-, sym-union or association
tachy- fast
trans- across, through, beyond, over
ultra- excess

Review of Suffixes

Below are some suffixes that can be used for the medical terminology of most systems. Suffixes are placed at the end of a word root or word part to modify or vary the meaning. Suffixes can indicate a condition, disease or procedure. When a suffix is written detached it is preceded by a hyphen (-).

-ac. -al, -ar, -aryPertaining to
-icPertaining to, characteristics
-ose, -ousPertaining to
-tic Pertaining to
-centesissurgical puncture as to aspirate or remove fluid
-cision process of cutting
-ectomyexcision (surgical removal or cutting out)
-grama drawing or a written record
-graphproduct of a drawing, writing or recording
-graphythe process of recording
-ia condition
-ism condition process, theory of, principle, method
-itis inflammation
-ologist one who studies
-ologystudy of
-lysisprocess of loosening, freeing, or destroying
-opsyto view
-osiscondition, status process
-otomycutting into
-ostomyformation of an opening
-plasty surgical repair
-pathy disease
-sclerosis hardening
-scope instrument for viewing
-scopyvisual examination with a lighted instrument
-sisstate of, condition
-stasis to stand, place, stop, control
-tension pressure
-ule small

Word Root and Combining Vowel for the Endocrine System

This is a list of word roots with their combining vowel used for the endocrine system.

Term Definition
Adren/oadrenal gland
Adrenal/oadrenal gland
Gluc/oglucose, sugar
Glyc/oglucose, sugar
Glycos/oglucose, sugar
Hypophys/opituitary gland
Parathyroid/oparathyroid gland
Parathyro-parathyroid gland
Pituitar/opituitary gland
Thym/othymus gland
Thyroid/othyroid gland

Endocrine Specialties

This is a list of specialists that diagnose and treat conditions related to the endocrine system.

Medical Terminology of the Endocrine System
Term Definition
EndocrinologyEndo means within or inward.
Crine means endocrine secretion.
-ology is the study of.
Endocrinology is a medical specialty that treats conditions related to the endocrine system.
EndocrinologistEndo means within or inward.
Crine means endocrine secretion.
-logist means one who studies.
An endocrinologist is a person who treats conditions related to the endocrine system.

The Structure and Functions of the Endocrine System

Procedures of the Endocrine System

Term Definition
Adrenal glandsAdrenal means pertaining to the adrenal gland.
Glands are where hormones are produced and secreted into the bloodstream.
The adrenal glands are small glands located on the upper portion of each kidney. The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that secrete such hormones as catecholamines norepinephrine epinephrine dopamine and corticosteroids.
AldosteroneAldosterone is a mineralocorticoid steroid hormone that maintains extracellular fluid volume.
Antidiuretic hormoneAnti- means against.
Antidiuretic means suppression of urine formation.
A hormone is a chemical messenger.
The antidiuretic hormone regulates fluid volume by stimulating reabsorption of water in the renal tubules.
CatecholaminesCatecholamines are secreted by the adrenal medulla and are an essential part of the body’s response to stress.
CorticosteroidCorti- means cortex.
A corticosteroid is any hormone synthesized by the adrenal cortex except androgen.
CortisolCorti- means cortex.
Cortisol is the most abundant and potent glucocorticoid. It is necessary to maintain life. One major function of cortisol is the regulation of blood glucose concentration.
Endocrine systemEndo means within or inward.
Crine means endocrine secretion.
The endocrine system consists of a series of organs and glands throughout the body that produce, store, and secrete special chemical messengers.
GlandGlands are where hormones are produced and secreted into the bloodstream.
GlucagonGlucagon is synthesized and released from pancreatic alpha cells in response to low levels of blood glucose, protein ingestion, and exercise.
Growth hormoneThe growth hormone affects the growth and development of skeletal muscle in long bones, affecting a person's size and height.
HomeostasisHomeo- means sameness or similar.
-stasis means standing still.
Homeostasis means having a consistent internal environment in the body.
HormonesA hormone is a chemical substance synthesized and secreted by a specific organ or tissue
InsulinInsulin is produced by beta cells and is the principal regulator of metabolism. Insulin facilitates glucose transport across cell membranes in most tissues.
Islets of LangerhansThe islets of langerhans is the hormone-secreting portion of the pancreas.
Negative feedbackNegative feedback is when a gland responds to a stimulus by increasing or decreasing the secretion of a hormone based on feedback from different factors.
OvariesOvari- means ovary
Ovaries produce and store eggs in females. Also, the ovaries produce estrogen.
PancreasThe pancreas is an accessory organ of the digestive system. It produces and secretes digestive enzymes that help to break down starches, fats, and proteins and also, produces hormones that regulate blood sugar.
Parathyroid glandsPara- means similar or beside.
Parathyroid/o means parathyroid gland.
Glands are where hormones are produced and secreted into the bloodstream.
The parathyroid glands are small and oval-shaped that regulate the blood level of calcium. There are usually four glands.
Pineal glandPineal refers to the pineal gland.
The pineal gland is located near the center of the brain. It is composed of cells that secrete melatonin.
Pituitary glandThe pituitary gland is a small gland about the size of a grape which acts only under the control of the hypothalamus. It is very important in the control of other endocrine glands.
Target organsThe target organ is the organ that the hormone has its effect on.
TestesTeste- refers to testicles.
The testes produce and store sperm in males. The testes also produce testosterone.
Thyroid glandThyroid means thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is located in front of the trachea. It is a highly vascular organ and controls metabolic processes throughout the body.
Tropic hormoneThe tropic hormones are hormones that control the secretion of hormones by other glands.
Pancreatic Studies
Term Definition
Fasting blood glucose levelThe fasting blood glucose measures circulating glucose levels.
Oral Glucose tolerance This is a 2-hour test used to diagnose diabetes mellitus.
Capillary glucose monitoringThe capillary glucose monitoring is used to give immediate glucose values with a drop of blood from a finger stick.
Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1C)The hemoglobin A1C measures the degree of glucose control during a previous three-month period.
Urine glucoseUrine glucose estimates the amount of glucose in urine by using an enzymatic method.
Urine ketonesUrine ketone measures the amount of acetone excreted in the urine as a result of incomplete fat metabolism.
Computed Tomography (CT scan)Computed tomography is a technique that uses radiography to produce an image of the cross-section of tissue. It is used to identify tumors or cysts of the pancreas.
Adrenal Studies
Term Definition
Serum cortisolThe serum cortisol measures the amount of total cortisol in the blood and evaluates the function of the adrenal cortex.
Serum aldosteroneThe serum aldosterone levels are drawn to evaluate for hyperaldosteronism.
Serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)This test measures the plasma levels of ACTH. This test can help determine if there is a underproduction or overproduction of cortisol and if it is caused by dysfunction of the adrenal gland or pituitary gland.
Serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation with cosyntropinThe ACTH stimulation test is used to evaluate adrenal function.
Serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) suppression The ACTH suppression assesses for excessive adrenal function. It is especially helpful in hyperactivity is expected. It is also, useful in the evaluation of Cushing's syndrome.
Urine vanillylmandelic acidThis test measures the urinary excretion of catecholamine metabolites. It is helpful in diagnosing pheochromocytoma.
Computed Tomography (CT scan)Computed tomography is a technique that uses radiography to produce an image of the cross-section of tissue. It is used to detect tumors and the size of the tumor mass of the adrenal gland.
Pituitary Studies
Term Definition
Growth hormoneA serum growth hormone test evaluates the secretion of growth hormone. This test can identify deficiencies or excess of the growth hormone.
Somatostatin CSomatostatin C is a serum test that provides a reflection of the plasma concentration of the growth hormone.
Growth hormone stimulation testThis serum test provides an adequate diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency. The substances of insulin or arginine are used as a stimulant.
Gonadotropin levelsThe serum gonadotropin provides information about any problems with the gonads related to pituitary insufficiency.
Prolactin levelsA serum prolactin level provides an evaluation of prolactin levels.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)Magnetic refers to lodestone.
Resonance means to sound again.
Imaging means image.
An MRI is a procedure used to produce an image by the creation of a magnetic field to give detailed information about the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus.
Thyroid Studies
Term Definition
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)The TSH test measures the serum levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). It is used to evaluate for thyroid disease.
Thyroxine (T4)This test measures total serum level of T4. It is used to assess thyroid function and for monitoring when a patient is receiving thyroid therapy.
Triiodothyronine (T3)This test measures for serum levels of T3. It is useful in diagnosing hyperthyroidism.
Free t4The serum free T4 test is used to measure the active component of the total T4. This is one of the better tests used for the evaluation of thyroid function.
UltrasoundThis is a radiological test that measures for thyroid nodules.
Radioactive Iodine UptakeThis is a radiological study that measures thyroid activity.
Thyroid scanThis scan is used to measure the nodules of the thyroid.
Parathyroid hormone (PTH)This test measures serum levels of parathyroid hormone.
Total serum calciumThis test measures total serum calcium to help detect bone and parathyroid disorders.
Ionized calciumThe serum ionized calcium measures the free form of calcium circulating in the bloodstream.
Serum phosphateThis test measures for inorganic phosphorus. It is used to check for hypoparathyroidism by looking for hyperphosphatemia.

Diseases and Disorders of the Endocrine System

Medical Terminology of the Endocrine System
Term Definition
AcromegalyAcro- means extremities.
Megaly- means great.
Acromegaly is characterized by an overgrowth of the bones and soft tissue.
Cushing syndromeCushing syndrome is a metabolic disorder characterized by an abnormal increased secretion of adrenocortical steroids due to an increase secretion of ACTH. This results in excess fat in the upper back, chest, abdomen, and face.
Diabetes insipidusDiabetes insipidus is associated with a deficiency of production or secretion of antidiuretic hormone or a decreased renal response to the antidiuretic hormone.
Diabetic ketoacidosisDiabetes ketoacidosis is acidosis with an accumulation of ketones in the body.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a profound deficiency of insulin and is marked by hyperglycemia, ketosis, acidosis, and dehydration.
Diabetes mellitusDiabetes mellitus is a chronic disease related to abnormal insulin production, impaired insulin utilization, or a combination of both.
Diabetic nephropathyDiabetic nephropathy is damaged to the small blood vessels that supply the glomeruli of the kidney.
Diabetic neuropathy Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage normally associated with diabetes mellitus.
ExophthalmosEx- means outside, away from or without.
Ophthalmos means eye.
Exophthalmos is a classic finding in Grave’s disease. It is a protrusion of the eyeballs from the orbits.
GoiterA goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by excess secretion of the thyroid-stimulating hormone.
Grave’s diseaseGrave’s disease is an autoimmune disease of excessive thyroid hormone secretion.
Hashimoto's thyroiditisThyroid means pertaining to the thyroid gland.
-itis means inflammation.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a chronic autoimmune disease in which thyroid tissue is replaced by lymphocytes and fibrous tissue.
HyperparathyroidismHyper- means excessive.
Para- means similar or beside.
Parathyroid/o means parathyroid gland.
-ism refers to a condition process, theory of, principle, method.
Hyperparathyroidism is a condition involving an increased secretion of parathyroid hormone.
HyperthyroidismHyper- means excessive.
Thyroid means thyroid gland.
-ism refers to a condition process, theory of, principle, method.
Hyperthyroidism is an increased activity of the thyroid gland and a constant increase in synthesis and release of thyroid hormones.
HypoparathyroidismHypo- means insufficient.
Para- means similar or beside.
Parathyroid/o means parathyroid gland.
-ism refers to a condition process, theory of, principle, method.
Hypoparathyroidism is due to an inadequate amount of circulating parathyroid hormone.
HypopituitarismHypo- means insufficient.
-ism refers to a condition process, theory of, principle, method.
Hypopituitarism involves a decrease in one or more of the pituitary hormones.
HypothyroidismHypo- means insufficient.
Thyroid means thyroid gland.
-ism refers to a condition process, theory of, principle, method.
Hypothyroidism results from insufficient circulating thyroid hormone.
MyxedemaMyx- means relating to mucus.
Myxedema is a severe form of hypothyroidism due to an accumulation of mucopolysaccharides in the dermis of the tissue. It is characterized by swelling of the face, hand, feet, and periorbital tissue.
PheochromocytomaPheo means dusky.
Chromo- refers to color
-cytoma refers to tumor.
Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal medulla that produces excessive catecholamines which results in severe hypertension. Other signs include flushing, headaches, sweating, and hyperglycemia.
Somogyi effectThe Somogyi effect is a rebound effect in which an overdose of insulin induces hypoglycemia.
Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SAIDH).Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone is marked by increased urination which occurs when the antidiuretic hormone is released despite normal or low plasma osmolarity.
ThyroiditisThyroid means pertaining to the thyroid gland.
-itis means inflammation.
Thyroiditis is an inflammatory process in the thyroid.
ThyrotoxicosisThyr/o means pertaining to the thyroid gland.
Toxic refers to poison.
-osis refers to a condition, status process
Thyrotoxicosis is the physiological effect of hypermetabolism that results from excess circulating levels of T4, T3 or both.
Thyrotoxic crisisThyr/o means pertaining to the thyroid gland.
Toxic refers to poison.
Thyrotoxic crisis is also known as a thyroid storm. It is an acute condition in which all hyperthyroid manifestations are heightened.


Mosby’s Medical Dictionary (2017). 10th ed. St Louis, MO. Elsevier Inc.

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