Science Terms Study Guide

Updated on Sep 20, 2011

Science Terms

This study guide presents words from various fields of scientific study, and in so doing, reminds you of the value of identifying root words.

Do you like taking things apart and putting them back together?

      Do you like solving puzzles and other problems?
      Do you like organizing things and putting them into categories?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may well be headed for a career in science. But which branch of science? There are literally dozens, if not hundreds. Indeed, our twenty-first century can be called a scientific century, one in which the contributions of scientific findings will change, and hopefully improve, our lives forever.

The different areas of scientific study are called disciplines, or fields of knowledge. Each addresses a specific area of knowledge. Once you begin to study one discipline, you'll find you can go deeper, and narrow your studies to an even smaller area of that science. For example, some entomologists— who study insects—specialize, spending their whole careers studying just caterpillars, or butterflies, or ants.

As you learn the words for the various areas of science, note that almost all of them share the suffix -ology. It comes from the Greek logos, which means the study of. Whenever you see a word ending in -ology, you'll know that the word describes a particular area of scientific study.


Note that professionals in each of these fields share the suffix -ist, added to a variation of the scientific-study word. Thus, a person working in the field of anthropology is called an anthropologist. You, as a person studying words, might be called an amateur philologist!

Words That Describe Areas of Scientific Study

The words in this list by no means include all of the sciences. As you read the list, think of other areas of study that might interest you or that sound familiar. Jot them down, and then look up the definitions in your dictionary or use a search engine on the Internet.

1. anthropology (from the Greek anthros, meaning humanity) The study of the origins, customs, beliefs, and social relationships of groups of human beings. The anthropologists studied the arrival thousands of years ago of early Native Americans to the North American continent.
2. astronomy (from the Greek astron, meaning star plus the Greek nomos, meaning arranging) The study of outer space, especially the examination of all material objects and phenomena outside the earth's atmosphere The American commitment to exploration of outer space is an extension of the science of astronomy.
3. biology (from the Greek bios, meaning life) The study of all living organisms; it includes the subdivisions botany (the study of plants) and zoology (the study of animals)Every student in America studies biology, but too few choose to make biology their life's work.
4. cardiology (from the Greek kardía, meaning heart) The branch of medicine that addresses the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the heart Lowering the incidence of heart attacks among Americans is one of the primary goals of all cardiologists.
5. entomology (from the Greek entomon, meaning insect) The study of insects Too many students fail to consider entomology as a possible career choice, in spite of its many important contributions to medical science
6. etymology (from the Greek etumon, meaning true sense of a word) The study of the origins and historical development of words, including the changes that occur in words as they move from one language to another Scholars all over the world study the etymology of their own language in order to better understand their cultures.
7. geology (from the Greek geo, meaning earth) The science that studies the physical history of Earth and its rocks, as well as the geology of other planets Examining the geology of Mars is a fascinating new area of work for many young geologists.
8. neurology (from the Greek neuro, meaning nerves) The study of the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nerves and of the nervous system Patients who suffer serious spinal cord injuries depend on neurologists to help them regain mobility
9. ornithology (from the Greek ornith, meaning birds) The branch of zoology that studies birds Birdwatching, a popular hobby all over the world, is really an amateur branch of ornithology
10. paleontology (from the Greek palaios, meaning old or ancient).The study of the life forms of prehistoric times, especially the fossils of plants, animals, and other organisms. Many students fall in love with science when they first study the paleontology of dinosaurs.
11. philology (from the Greek philología, meaning love of learning and literature). The scientific study of languages, including their historical development and the relationships between various languages. Philologists help us understand how and why Shakespeare's English in the 1600s sounded somewhat different from our English, and how our definitions of words sometimes differ from his as well
12. psychology (from the Greek psykhe, meaning spirit or soul). The scientific study of human and animal behavior. Psychologists seek to understand the hows and whys of our behavior in order to help us feel and work better.


Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Science Terms Practice Exercises

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