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a combining form meaning “cancer,” used in the formation of compound words: carcinogen.
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Origin of carcino-

<Greek, combining form representing karkínos crab, ulcerous sore; cf. cancer
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does carcino- mean?

Carcino- is a combining form used like a prefix meaning “cancer.” It is used in medical terms, especially in pathology.

Carcino- comes from the Greek karkínos, meaning “crab” and “ulcerous sore.” Crab? It’s supposed that ancient Greek doctors thought hard, cancerous tumors resembled hard-shelled crabs that gripped the body. Related to the Greek karkínos is cancer, directly from the Latin cancer, which literally means “crab.” Learn more at our entry for cancer.

What are variants of carcino-?

When combined with words or word elements that begin with a vowel, carcino- becomes carcin-, as in carcinoid.

Examples of carcino-

One example of a word that you may have encountered that features the combining form carcino- is carcinogen, “any substance or agent that tends to produce a cancer.”

We know carcino- means “cancer,” so the -gen portion of the word? That’s right, -gen refers to “that which produces.” Carcinogen literally translates to “something which produces cancer.”

What are some words that use the combining form carcino- or carcin-?

What are some other forms that carcino- may be commonly confused with?

The -carc- in incarcerate is not related to the combining form carcino-. Find out the history of the word incarcerate at our entry for the word.

Break it down!

The combining form -phobia means “fear.” What is carcinophobia, also known as cancerophobia?