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a combining form with the meanings “white,” “white blood cell,” used in the formation of compound words: leukopoiesis; leukotomy.
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Also leuco-; especially before a vowel, leuk-.

Origin of leuko-

<Greek leuko-, combining form of leukós white, bright
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does leuko- mean?

Leuko- is a combining form used like a prefix meaning “white” or “white blood cell.” It is often used in medical terms, especially in pathology.

Leuko- comes from the Greek leukós, meaning “white, bright.” One of the most familiar words related to leuko- is leukemia, cancers of the bone marrow that prevent the normal manufacture of blood cells. The English word leukemia comes immediately from the German Leukämie, in turn based on the Greek leukós.

What are variants of leuko-?

The combining form leuco-, as in leucocyte, is a common variant of leuko-. When combined with words or word elements that begin with a vowel, leuko– becomes leuk, as in leukapheresis.

Examples of leuko- 

Leukopenia, meaning “a decrease in the number of white blood cells in the blood,” is one example of a medical term that features the form leuko-. (Technically, leukopenia uses the New Latin equivalent of leuko-).

Leuko- means “white blood cell,” as we’ve seen. The -penia part of the word means “lack, deficiency,” from the Greek penía, meaning “poverty, need.” Putting it together, leukopenia literally translates to “white blood cell deficiency.”

Learn more about -penia in our Words That Use article on the combining form.

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

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

Break it down!

The combining form -cyte means “cell.” With this in mind, what is a leukocyte?

British Dictionary definitions for leuko-


combining form
a variant of leuco-
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012