under, below

Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The Greek prefix hypo- is an important morpheme of the English language. Examples using this prefix include hypothermia and hypocritical. An easy way to remember that the prefix hypo- means “under” is through the adjective hypodermic, which refers to going “under” the skin, especially when being given a shot.

No Hippo Under Hypo!

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The prefix hypo- means “under.” Let’s get "under"way with our discussion of hypo-!

When a nurse uses a hypodermic needle, she wants to go “under” the skin to administer a shot. The word hypodermic is often shortened to hypo. Speaking of medical terminology, someone who is suffering from hypothermia has a body temperature that is considerably “under” 98.6 degrees,which often comes from being exposed to outside cold for too long. A hypoventilating patient is breathing too shallowly or “under” the normal rate of taking breaths. A hypochondriac, or one who is always very worried about his health, is etymologically suffering from being “under” his rib cartilage; the abdomen, “under” the ribs, was once believed to be the center of melancholy, which led to being depressed or overly anxious about overall health status. And a person who is suffering from hypothyroidism has a thyroid that is functioning “under” its normal capacity, causing symptoms of depression, fatigue, and hair loss, among other things.

Let’s talk about two additional interesting words that come from hypo-, which means “under.” Every geometry student has heard of the hypotenuse of a triangle, but what does it have to do with “under?” The hypotenuse is the side of a right triangle that is stretched “under,” or opposite, the right angle. And what is someone like who is hypocritical? Someone is being a hypocrite if he is pretending to be something he is not, thus being “under” critical by choosing to conveniently ignore in himself what he might very well criticize in others.

No hypocrisy was present in this podcast, for we did lay a solid foundation “under” your mind that the prefix hypo- means “under!”

  1. hypodermic: pertaining to ‘under’ the skin
  2. hypo: short for hypodermic
  3. hypothermia: condition of having a ‘low’ body temperature
  4. hypoventilation: a breathing ‘under’ the normal rate
  5. hypochondriac: one who is ’under’estimating his current health status as poorer than it really is
  6. hypothyroidism: disease when the thyroid gland is functioning ‘under’ its normal output of thyroxine
  7. hypotenuse: side of a right triangle that is stretched ‘under’ the right angle
  8. hypocritical: being ‘under’ critical of oneself when pretending to be something one is not


  • hypothetical

    Something that is hypothetical is based on possible situations or events rather than actual ones.

  • hypochondriac

    A hypochondriac is a person who worries excessively about their health and thinks that an illness is present or about to occur when there is really nothing wrong.

  • hypocritical

    Someone who is hypocritical pretends to be a person they are not.

  • hyphen

    divide or connect with a hyphen

  • hyphenated

    United by hyphens; hyphened; as, a hyphenated or hyphened word.

  • hypo

    a compound used as a fixing agent in photographic developing

  • hypocrisy

    an expression of agreement that is not supported by real conviction

  • hypocrite

    a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives

  • hypodermic

    relating to or located below the epidermis

  • hypotenuse

    the side of a right triangle opposite the right angle

  • hypothermia

    subnormal body temperature

  • hypothesis

    a proposal intended to explain certain facts or observations

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