Learning medical terminology for school usually means cramming enormous amounts of information into your head in a short period of time. Even if you are not enrolled in some kind of medical course, the ability to memorize technical terms of the trade can be very difficult unless you use some kind of memorization technique. Luckily, there are several different ways to help your brain not only learn the terminology you need, but learn it fast.
Work with small lists of words at a time. For example, if you have to memorize 500 medical words in one week, break that huge list down into more manageable 20-word lists.
Use the "key word" memorization method to memorize medical terminology. The point is to take the word you need to memorize and associate it with a word or picture in your mind. The best way to do this is to think of words or pictures that sound similar to your medical word. For example, the word "fascicle" describes a bundle of muscle fibers. Maybe "fascicle" reminds you of "icicle" which is long and skinny, just like a fascicle in the muscle.
Make an acronym out of a group of similar medical words. There are several online resources that have already developed many acronyms you can use, such as the ones at the Medical Mnemonics website, www.medicalmnemonics.com. An acronym is when you make one word out of the first letter of the words you need to memorize. For example, the Medical Mnemonics website shows that the acronym "DIP OUT," can be used for remembering the causes of erythema nodosum (inflammation of the fat under the skin):
D-rugs I-nfections P-regnancy O-CP U-lcerative colitis T-B
Use the first letters of a group of words you need to memorize to make a sentence. Another example from the Medical Mnemonics website is listing the mental stages someone goes through before they die, and making a sentence: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grieving, Acceptance could be "Death Always Brings Great Acceptance."
Make flashcards and have your friends quiz you over and over. Rote memorization is not as creative as some of the other techniques, but repetition is a tried and true way to memorize something.
Study the roots of medical words. Most medical terminology comes from Latin or Greek roots, so being familiar with these roots will help you quickly determine what the word is referencing. In addition to the root, you will want to learn where certain prefixes (beginnings of a word) and suffixes (endings of a word) come from. A good reference to start learning these can be found at The Student Nurse Forum (kcsun3.tripod.com/id72.htm).
- anconeus muscle image by patrimonio designs from Fotolia.com