a combining form meaning “flesh,” used in the formation of compound words: sarcocarp.



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Also especially before a vowel, sarc-.

Origin of sarco-

<Greek sark- (stem of sárx) + -o- Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does sarco- mean?

Sarco- is a combining form used like a prefix meaning “flesh.” It is often used in medicine and biology.

Sarco- comes from the Greek sárx, meaning “flesh.” Did you know the word sarcasm also comes from this Greek root? What could “bitter derision” or “harsh irony” possibly have to do with flesh? Learn more at our entry for sarcasm.

What are variants of sarco-?

When combined with words or word elements that begin with a vowel, sarco- becomes sarc-, as in sarcoma.

Examples of sarco-

One word you may be familiar with that features sarco- is sarcophagus, “a stone coffin, especially one bearing sculpture, inscriptions, etc., often displayed as a monument,” especially in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The word sarcophagus—not to be confused with the related word sacrophagous—comes from a Greek word meaning “flesh-consuming”; the Greeks believed there was a kind of stone thought to consume the flesh of corpses, and so it was used for coffins.

Another term using sarco- that you may have heard is sarcomere, an anatomical term for a part of certain types of muscle. Now, we know sarco- means “flesh.” The second part of the word, -mere, comes from the Greek méros, meaning “part.” Sarcomere literally translates to “part of flesh.” Fortunately, the word sarcomere is far more specific than its literal meaning would suggest!

Sarco- also appears in sarcosuchus, the name of an extinct relative of the crocodile that clocked in at over 30 feet long and nearly 10,000 pounds. This formidable “super-croc,” whose name literally means “flesh crocodile,” lived over 100 million years ago in what is now Africa and South America. The sarcosuchus notably figures in the 2017 video game Ark: Survival Evolved, where the giant reptile is popularly called Sarco for short.

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

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

Break it down!

The combining part -carp denotes “fruit” and “fruiting body.” With this in mind, what would you say sarcocarp means in everyday words?

British Dictionary definitions for sarco-


before a vowel sarc-

combining form

indicating fleshsarcoma

Word Origin for sarco-

from Greek sark-, sarx flesh
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 sarco-



Striated muscle:sarcolemma.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.