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oligo-

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a combining form meaning “few,” “little,” used in the formation of compound words: oligopoly.
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Also especially before a vowel, olig- .

Origin of oligo-

From Greek, combining form of olígos “little, small, few”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

WORDS THAT USE OLIGO-

What does oligo- mean?

Oligo- is a combining form used like a prefix meaning “few; little.” It is occasionally used in scientific terms, especially in biology.

Oligo- comes from Greek olígos, meaning “little, small, few.” The Latin equivalent of olígos is paucus “few, little, small (number of),” which is the source of English terms such as paucity. To learn more, check out our entry on paucity.

What are variants of oligo-?

When combined with words or word elements that begin with a vowel, oligo- becomes olig-, as in oligemia.

Examples of oligo-

One example of a scientific term that features the form oligo- is oligopnea, “abnormally infrequent respiration.”

The combining form oligo- means “few” or “little,” as we have already seen, but what about the -pnea part of the word? It means “breath” or “respiration,” from Greek -pnoia.

What are some words that use the combining form oligo- or olig-?

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

Break it down!

The combining form -clase denotes minerals with a particular cleavage. With this in mind, what is an oligoclase?

British Dictionary definitions for oligo-

oligo-

before a vowel olig-


combining form
indicating a few or littleoligopoly

Word Origin for oligo-

from Greek olígos little, few
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

Medical definitions for oligo-

oligo-

pref.
Few:oligosaccharide.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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