06.07 Urinary Terminology

Join NURSING.com to watch the full lesson now.

Included In This Lesson



  1. Urinary System
  1. Anatomy
  2. Elimination & waste
  3. Common urinary system terms

Nursing Points


  1. Urinary system anatomy
    1. Kidneys – ren/o or nephr/o
      1. Renal pelvis – pyel/o
      2. Glomerulus – glomerul/o
    2. Ureters – ureter/o
    3. Bladder – cyst/o
      1. Urinary trigone – trigon/o
    4. Urethra – urethr/o
  2. Elimination & waste
    1. Urine – ur/o or urin/o or -uria
    2. Potassium – kal/o
    3. Nitrogen – azot/o
    4. Albumin – albumin/o
    5. Scant (in terms of frequency) – olig/o
    6. Thirst – dips/o
  3. Common urinary terms
    1. Kidney – nephr/o
    2. Kidney – ren/o
    3. Ureter – ureter/o
    4. Urethra – urethr/o
    5. Urinary meatus – meat/o
    6. Ketone bodies – ket/o or keton/o
    7. Stone – lith/o
    8. To crush -tripsy
    9. Urine – ur/o
    10. Urine – -uria
    11. Urine – urin/o


In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at the medical terms for the urinary system.

To get started, when we talk about the kidneys, we can use the terms ren/o or nephr/o. And if we want to break down the kidneys a little bit further, we can talk about the renal pelvis or the glomerulus. Both of these are important structures inside the kidneys. So, for instance, you could say a patient has pyelonephritis, so this is inflammation of the renal pelvis and the kidney. Or if you said glomerulonephritis, this would be inflammation of the kidney and the glomerulus.

The ureters here, are the long tubes that go from the kidneys to the bladder, and you can use the term ureter/o, and then for the bladder we use the term cyst/o. Then, there’s triangular area in the bladder called the trigone, and we use the term trigon/o to talk about that area. Finally, when we talk about the urethra, we use the term urethr/o. An example of this would be a urethral stricture, which is basically a narrowing of the urethra. But you can see from the term that urethral shows the area of the urinary system that the stricture is happening.

Another important part of the urinary system is the need to eliminate waste. There are a few medical terms that we use to talk about urine, and these are ur/o, urin/o  or the suffix -uria. Another important part of the urinary system is the elimination and retention of things like potassium and nitrogen. We use the term kalo for potassium and azoto for nitrogen. So a patient that has high levels of nitrogen, in particular blood urea nitrogen or BUN, would be azotemic. A patient that had high levels of potassium would be hyperkalemic.

Another thing that we look at the urinary system is the presence of albumin or the ability to retain albumin We use the term albumino for that. A couple of other terms that are important to the idea of elimination of waste is oliguro which means scant. And when I mean scant I’m talking about very small amounts. So if you had a patient that was oliguric, that would mean that they’re only urinating small amounts at a time. Another important player in the urinary system is ability to take in water so we use the term dipso to talk about thirst. So patient who has polydipsia means that they drink a lot of water. Poly means many or a lot, and dipsic refers to the need to drink or house thirsty someone is.

And finally I want to talk about just some common urinary terms. We’ve covered a lot of these but there are two that I want to talk about. Litho refers to a stone, so you can have stones and lots of different areas of the body. You can have stones in the kidneys, or you can have stones in the gallbladder, or you can even have them in the urinary bladder. So if a patient has renolithiasis, that means that the patient has kidney stones.  The other term I want to talk about is -tripsy. Tripsy is a suffix that means to crush. It’s usually done with the procedure using sonic waves to do so. So if patient can have a renal lithotripsy, and what that means is they’re going to go through procedure where they have sonic waves or sound waves that go through the abdomen and Target the kidneys to break up those kidney stones and allow the patient to pass smaller amounts of those kidney stones out of their body.

Okay so let’s recap. Remember when we’re talking about the urinary system, that these medical terms are going to focus on the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Also remember that all the medical terms relating to the urinary system focus on the waste and elimination  of urine. Now there are some terms throughout this lesson that either had similar and different combining forms for the term. Sometimes it interchangeable sometimes or not, which one it leads me to my last point which is that you need to practice because some of these words and phrases are a little bit more difficult than others. So practice practice practice!

That’s it for our lesson on medical terminology for the urinary system. Make sure you check out all the resources to attach this lesson. Now, go out and be your best self today, and as always, happy nursing!