The Language of Embryology

 

One of the problems in learning about embryonic development is the vocabulary. To describe what happens, researchers had to give names to parts of the embryo, and most of these names are unfamiliar words.  They were coined at a time when scientists knew and used Latin and Greek, and most of them are derived from a fairly small number of Latin and Greek roots. If you are familiar with some of these roots, then the terms don't seem quite so arbitrary, and you may find it easier to remember them. The following list is not exhaustive, but it should help for terms you will encounter during the course.

 

Prefix and/or Suffix

Meaning

Examples

-Blast

Precursor cell

Myoblast

Coel- / -coel

Cavity

Coelom, blastocoel

cyto-  /  -cyte

Cell

Cytoskeleton, erythrocyte

Derma-  / -derm

Layer, skin

Dermatome, mesoderm

Ecto-

Outer

Ectoderm

Endo-

Inner

Endoderm

Epi-

Above

Epiblast

Exo-

Out of

Exocytosis

Hetero-

Different

Heterozygous

Holo-

Whole

Holoblastic

Hypo-

Under

Hypoblast

Iso-

Same, uniform

Isolecithal

Karyo- / -karyon

Nucleus (seed)

Karyotype, heterokaryon

Kineto- / -kinesis

Movement

Kinetochore, cytokinesis

Macro-

Large

Macrophage

Mero- / -mere

Part

Meroblastic, blastomere

Meso-

Middle

Mesoderm

Meta-

Middle

Metaphase

Multi-

Many

Multicellular

Myo-

Muscle

Myoblast

Osteo-

Bone

Osteoblast

Ovi-

Egg

Oviduct

Peri-

Around

Perivitelline

Phago- / -phage

Eating, eater

Phagocytosis, macrophage

Pluri-

Multiple

Pluripotent

Poly-

Many

Polyspermy

Pro-

Before

Pronucleus

Soma- / -some

Body

Somatic, acrosome

Stomo- / -stome

Mouth

Deuterostome

Telo-

End

Telolecithal, telomere

Toti-

All

totipotent

Tropho- / -troph / -trophy

Change

Trophoblast, hypertrophy

Uni-

One

Unicellular