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variant of ptero- before a vowel: pteranodon.
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Other definitions for pter- (2 of 2)


a combining form meaning “one with wings” of the kind specified: hymenopter.

Origin of -pter

see origin at -pterous
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


Basic definitions of pter- and -pter

Pter- and –pter are combining forms that variously refer to “wings” and “feathers.”

They come from the Greek pterón, meaning “wing” or “feather.”

Closely related to pter- and -pter are the combining forms pterygo-, connected to pterygoid, and pterido-, which is used for ferns.

What does pter- mean?

Pter- is a combining form used like a prefix meaning “wing” or “feather.” It is used in scientific terms, especially in zoology.

The initial p in pter- is silent.

Pter- is a variant of ptero-, which loses its -o– when combined with words or word elements beginning with vowels. Want to know more? Read our Words That Use ptero- article.

What does -pter mean?

The combining form -pter is used like a suffix meaning “one with wings” of a kind specified by the first part of the word. Like pter-, it is used in scientific terms, especially in zoology.

An adjective form corresponding to -pter is -pterous. Learn about its specific applications at our Words That Use -pterous article.

The p when -pter is used like a suffix is pronounced.

Examples of pter- used like a prefix

A pteranodon is an extinct flying reptile that had about a 25-foot wingspan.

The first part of the word, pter- means “wing.” The -anodon portion of the word comes from Greek words meaning “toothless.” Pteranodon literally means “wing without teeth.” The first pteranodon fossils found were thought to be different from other pterosaurs because they didn’t have any teeth.

Fun fact: pteranodons (which are more sometimes more generally referred to as pterodactyls) were not technically dinosaurs!

What are some words that use or are related to the combining form pter-?

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

Break it down!

The pteryla refers to areas of a bird’s skin that have what appendage?

Examples of -pter used like a suffix

You might reasonably think the word helicopter is composed of the parts heli- and -copter. But in fact, the word is composed of helico-, meaning “spiral,” and -pter, meaning “one with wings.” A helicopter literally means “one with spiral wings” or “spiral-winged,” an apt description for this aircraft propelled by blades rotating overhead.

The word helicopter, from the French hélicoptère, uses the equivalent forms of helico- and -pter in the language.

What are some words that use the combining form –pter?

Many of the following words use the equivalent form of -pter in New Latin or Greek.

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

Many words that end in the letters -pter are not using -pter as a combining form to refer to wings, such as chapter or adapter.

Break it down!

The combining form di- means “two,” and, as we’ve seen, -pter means “one with wings.” Diptera is an order of insects, including houseflies, mosquitoes, and gnats, that have a pair of wings.

Based on di- and what you know about -pter, what does diptera literally mean?

How to use pter- in a sentence