This term has combined Greek components. The prefix [ect-] comes from [ectos], meaning "outside", and the root term [-top-] from [topos], meaning "place or location". The suffix [-ic] of course means "pertaining to". The word [ectopic] then means "outside its (normal) place or location".

The words has several uses. As an example, in atrial fibrillation, the atria of the heart will depolarize in abnormal or ectopic locations, causing a dysrhythmia. Another common use is in endometriosis, where there are abnormal or ectopic implantation sites of endometrium.