a combining form meaning “wing,” “feather,” used in the formation of compound words: pterodactyl.



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Also pter-.

Origin of ptero-

<New Latin, combining form representing Greek pterón Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does ptero- mean?

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

Ptero- comes from the Greek pterón, meaning “wing” or “feather.” Here’s a word connection that may surprise you: the word helicopter also has a root in the Greek pterón. Discover why at our entry for the word.

And, as it’s always worth noting, the p in ptero- is silent.

What are variants of ptero-?

When combined with words or word elements that begin with a vowel, ptero- becomes pter-, as in pteranodon (formed in New Latin).

Corresponding forms of ptero- combined to the end of words are -pter and -pterous, which you can learn more about in our Words That Use articles for each form.

Closely related to ptero- is pterygo-, connected to pterygoid, and pterido-, which is used for ferns.

Examples of ptero-

You may be familiar with pterodactyl, a term for ancient flying reptiles, whose name features the combining form ptero-. Fun fact: pterodactyls were not technically dinosaurs!

We know ptero- means “wing,” so what is the -dactyl portion of the word? It comes from the Greek dáktylos, meaning “finger.” So, pterodactyl literally means “winged finger.”

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

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

Break it down!

The combining form -saur is used to name extinct reptiles. Keeping this and the meaning of ptero- in mind, what was a distinctive feature of a pterosaur?

British Dictionary definitions for ptero-


combining form

wing, feather, or a part resembling a wingpterodactyl

Word Origin for ptero-

from Greek pteron wing, feather
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 ptero-



Wing; feather:pterion.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.