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variant of hystero- before a vowel: hysterectomy.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does hyster- mean?

Hyster- is a combining form used like a prefix representing the word uterus, also known as the womb, where offspring are conceived and gestate in mammals. It is often used in medical terms, especially in anatomy.

Hyster- comes from the Greek hystéra, meaning “womb,” “uterus.” If that Greek word looks familiar, it might be because you recognize another one of its derivatives: hysteria, “an uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear, often characterized by irrationality, laughter, weeping, etc.” The ancient Greeks believed that this behavior was particular to women and caused by disturbances in the uterus. Learn more about this surprising (and problematic) etymology at our entry for hysteric.

Related to the Greek hystéra is the Latin uterus, source of the related combining form utero-. The combining form metro- can also indicate uterus.

Hyster- is a variant of hystero-, which loses its -o– when combined with words or word elements beginning with vowels.

Want to know more? Read our Words That Use hystero- article.

Examples of hyster-

An example of a word you may have encountered that features hyster- is hysterectomy, “excision of the uterus.”

The first part of the word, hyster-, means “uterus.” What about -ectomy? It is a combining form meaning “excision,” the medical term for “removal.” Hysterectomy literally translates to “uterus excision.”

What are some words that use the combining form hyster-?

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

The scientific term hysteresis, which is used chiefly in physics, does not use hyster- as a combining form to mean “uterus.” To find out more about this magnetic term, read our entry on this word here.

Break it down!

The combining form algia means “pain.” With this in mind, what does the medical condition hysteralgia involve?