You may have heard the term hypoallergenic — or is it hyperallergenic? What about hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism? While these words sound similar, they have distinctly different meanings. Learn the difference between hypo and hyper, their meanings and uses, and words they apply to.
Know the Difference: Hypo and Hyper
The difference between the prefixes hypo- and hyper- is an important distinction. They are antonyms, which means they have opposite meanings.
hypo - under; below
hyper - over; excessive; exaggerated
The Meaning and Use of Hypo
Hypo means “under” or “beneath" and is derived from the Greek hypokhondria, which means “under the cartilage.” This is related to the term hypochondria, which refers to a person who is overly anxious about their health. Therefore, it is no surprise that the prefix hypo- is commonly used in medical terms. For example:
We use hypoallergenic soap.
The doctor asked for the hypodermic needle.
He was told he had hypoglycemia.
She is hyposensitive to iodine.
How to Use Hyper in a Sentence
The Greek word hyper means “over, beyond, or above.” In medical terminology, the prefix hyper- means “higher than normal” or “excessive.” Hyper also stands on its own to mean very energetic, excited or excessive.
The child was very hyperactive.
Eating sugar makes me hyper.
He’s very dramatic and always speaks in hyperbole.
They were sent to the hyperbaric chamber for recovery.
Find Ways to Remember the Difference
Spelling a word incorrectly is not a matter of life and death, but when it applies to medical terms it can be. That’s why it’s important to find ways to remember the difference. Something to keep in mind is that hypo is commonly used in medical terms like hypotension and hypothermia. On the other hand, hyper more commonly applies to the “energetic” or “excessive” meaning.
Explore other words with similarly confusing definitions. For example, what differentiates epidemic and pandemic? What about contagious and infectious? Once you remember these definitions, the differences will become clear.