what’s the difference between -ists and -ologists in medical fields?


On one hand you have pharmacist, dentist, anethsacist, psychiatrist, etc. One the other you have cardiologist, urologist, neurologist, etc.

Is there a rule for this, or just what sounds better? Could you have a neuralist or a psyciatrologist?

In: Other


Interesting question. -ologist still ends in -ist, so the only difference is the -olog(y) part, which simply refers to the ‘study of’ something. And since we know that doctors ending -ist definitely study within their field, I wonder where the distinction is made, or if there even is one.

Notably, re: anesthesiologist vs (nurse) anesthetist, the former have a doctorate but the latter can get by with a masters. Re: psychiatrist vs psychologist, the former has a MD and can prescribe meds while the latter is a PhD and requires additional certification to dispense meds. That’s all the notable differences I can think of off the top of my head, and some of those things may have changed over the years. In fact, it may be that differences between -ists and -ologists have changed or muddied over time. I hope you get more discussion here, or maybe try a sub like r/etymology?

There is no steadfast rule for this. The common thread here is simply how old the origin of the word is dictated the preference at the time.

To start, the earliest terms had the suffix -er. Examples like astronomer still survive.

Newer terms from the 1800s started adding -ist which is a suffix of latin origin. This was a result of the post-enlightenment era wanting to bring some ancient prestige back.

Then in roughly the same time period you have others with a preference for Greek over Latin. So they started using -logy and -ology.

Eventually some crossing between the two came the amalgam of -ologist, which is the combination of two suffixes from different languages.

Personally I like -er but basically more “prestigious sounding” suffixes were preferred because they sounded cool to science guys 200 years ago.

Just took a medical terminology class that went over this. Basically ‘ist’ means specialist or practitioner. Ignore the ‘ologist’ part. “ology” is a suffix and it means study of. So cardiology, urology, and neurology all mean study if a certain field/body part. Medical terms are constructed in a certain way, with prefix, root, combining form and suffix. Not all medical words have a prefix or suffix. But all will have a root. It can be confusing because suffix can be a combination of words. Just like language these rules aren’t always followed

So for example cardiologist deconstructed is cardi/ologist
Cardi means heart and ologist means practioner if heart.

Cardiology deconstructed is cardi/ology

Cardi means heart ology means study of.

Let’s take the word cardiologist (καρδιολόγος) for example. It derives from the two following greek words:

-καρδιά (carthia ,pronounce the ‘th’ as you would pronounce it in ‘that’) , meaning heart

-λόγος (logos , pronounce the ‘g’ as the ‘w’ in ‘what’), meaning speech

So a cardiologist is someone who talks about the heart. Now it seems that every greek profession that ends in -λόγος , was turned into ologist. As for the words that don’t , they were other arbitrarily implemented with ist or they derive from some other language.