|Glossary of Anatomy
The University of Sydney
by Dr. M. A. (Toby) Arnold
abdomen: Latin abdomen = the belly, the part of the trunk between thorax and the perineum, adjective - abdominal.
abducent: Latin ab = from, and ducens = led, hence, moving from, or effecting separation.
abduction: Latin ab = from, and ductum = led, hence, movement from; verb - abduct.
aberrant: Latin ab = from, and errare = to wander, hence, deviating from normal.
accessory: adjective, Latin accessum = added, hence, supplementary.
accommodation: Latin ad = to, and modus = measure, hence, adaptation of the optical power (focussing) of the eye for shorter distances.
acetabulum: Latin acetum = vinegar (cf. acetic), and abulum = small receptacle, hence, a vinegar cup, hence, the socket for the head of the femur, adjective - acetabular.
acoustic: adjective, Greek akoustikos, related to hearing.
acromion: Greek akros = summit (cf. Acropolis) and omos = shoulder, hence, the tip of the shoulder.
adduction: Latin ad = to, and ductum = led, hence, movement towards; verb - adduct.
adenoid: Greek aden = a gland, eidos = shape or form.
adhesion: Latin ad = to, and haesus = stuck, hence, stuck to, e.g., interthalamic adhesion - variable and functionally insignificant.
adipose: Latin adeps = fat, hence fatty
aditus: Latin ad = to, towards, iter = a way, hence an opening or entrance.
adrenal: Latin ad = towards, at, ren = kidney, hence situated near the kidney (see suprarenal)
adrenergic: adjective, Latin ad = at, ren = kidney, and Greek ergon = work, hence, stimuli which cause the adrenal (suprarenal) gland to produce adrenaline. Used to specify neurons or pathways which use adrenaline as a transmitter.
afferent: adjective, Latin ad = to, and ferent = carrying (cf. ferry), hence, carrying to, e.g., axons carrying information from retina to lateral geniculate nucleus are afferents to that nucleus.
agger nasi: Latin = eminence of the nose.
agonist: Greek agonistes = rival, hence, a muscle in apparent contest with another. Used for a prime mover.
ala: Latin wing, hence a wing-like process; plural - alae.
alaeque: Latin ala = wing (ala of nose), suffix -que = and, hence levator labii superioris alaeque nasi muscles = lifter of the upper lip and ala of nose.
alba: Latin albus = white
albicans: Latin = becoming white; albus = white
albuginea: Latin albus = white, Greek gen = form, hence, like boiled white of an egg.
alimentary: adjective, Latin alimentum = food, e.g., alimentary canal.
allantois: Greek allantos = sausage, eidos = like, form.
allocortex: Greek allos = other (than usual), and Latin cortex = bark, hence non-laminated external grey matter. It refers to paleo- or archi-cortex, as distinct from neocortex.
alveolus: Latin a basin, hence any small hollow. Plural - alveoli, adjective - alveolar.
alveus: Latin = tray. The allusion is unclear. The alveus is a layer of fibres on the free surface of the hippocampus.
ambiguus: adjective, Latin = doubtful (nucleus ambiguus).
ampulla: Latin = a two-handed flask, a local dilatation of a tube.
amygdaloid: adjective, Greek amygdala = almond, and eidos = shape or form, hence, amygdaloid body is an almond-shaped mass.
amylacea: Greek amylon = starch, hence, starchy.
anaesthesia: Greek an = negative, and aisthesis = sensation, hence, loss of sensation; adjective - anaesthetic.
analgesia: Greek an = negative, and algesis = pain, hence insensibility to pain; adjective - analgesic.
analogous: Greek ana = up, apart, towards, and logos = word. A part with similar function through different morphology e.g., fish gills and mammalian lungs (c.f. homologous).
anastomosis: Greek ana = of each, and stoma = mouth, hence the end-to-end continuity of 2 vessels; adjective - anastomotic.
anatomy: Greek ana = up, and tome = a cutting, hence cutting up of a body (c.f. dissection).
anconeus: Greek ancon = elbow, hence the muscle attached to the (lateral surface of the) olecranon.
aneurysm: Greek angeion = blood vessel, and eurys = wide, hence a pathological dilatation of a blood vessel.
angiography: Greek angeion (v.s.) and graphe = a record, hence a picture of a blood vessel which has been injected with a dye or radiopaque material.
anhidrosis: (anhydrosis, anidrosis) Greek an = negative, and hidros = sweat, hence absence of sweating, typical of skin deprived of its sympathetic innervation.
ankle: the region between the leg and the foot.
annulus: diminutive of Latin anus = ring, hence little ring.
ansa: Latin a handle or loop. Applicable to nerves.
anserinus: Latin anser = a goose, hence like a goose, plural - anserina.
antagonist: Greek anti = against, and agonistes = rival, hence a muscle which may oppose an agonist.
anteflexion: Latin ante = before, and flexere = to bend, hence anterior angulation between the body and cervix of the uterus.
anterior: comparative of Latin ante = before, in front.
anteversion: Latin ante = before, and versum = turned, hence, the anterior angulation between cervix uteri and the vagina.
antidromic: adjective, Greek a = negative, and dromos = current, hence conducting in the opposite direction to the usual.
antrum: Greek antron - cave, hence a space in a bone or organ.
anulus: diminutive of Latin anus = ring, hence little ring.
anus: Latin = ring, adjective - anal.
aponeurosis: Greek apo = from, and neuron = tendon (later applied to nerve cell and its fibres), used for sheet-like tendons. Adjective - aponeurotic.
apophysis: Greek apo = from, and physis = growth, hence, a bony process - reserved for the articular process of a vertebra; adjective - apophysial.
appendage: Latin appendere = to hang on, supplement.
appendix: Latin appendere = to hang on, supplement.
apposition: Latin appositus = placed at, hence, in contact, in juxtaposition.
aqueduct: Latin aqua = water, and ductus = drawn or led off, hence a channel for conducting fluid, e.g. the cerebral aqueduct of the midbrain, which transmits fluid from the 3rd to the 4th ventricle.
arachnoid: adjective, Greek arachne = spider, and eidos = shape or form, hence like a spiders web. This middle layer of the three meninges is spread web-like over the brain when the dura has been removed.
arbor vitae: Latin arbor = tree, and vita = life, hence, resembling the tree of life. This colourful term is used to describe the pattern of cerebellar folia seen in a median section.
archaeocerebellum: Greek archi = first, hence the oldest part of the cerebellum, which is the flocculonodular lobe.
archaeopallium: Greek archi = first, and pallium = cloak, hence the cortex which developed first in vertebrates. Often synonymous with hippocampal formation.
archicerebellum: Greek archi = first, hence the oldest part of the cerebellum, which is the flocculonodular lobe.
archipallium: Greek archi = first, and pallium = cloak, hence the cortex which developed first in vertebrates. Often synonymous with hippocampal formation.
archistriatum: Greek archi = first, and Latin striatum = streaked or fluted.
arcuate: Latin arcuatum = curved or arched.
arcus: Latin an arch, Latin arcuatum = curved or arched.
area: a part of a surface.
areola: Latin small, open space.
arm: the upper limb, between shoulder and elbow.
arrector: Latin adrectus = raised, hence, arrector pili = a hair-raising muscle.
artery: Latin arteria (which originally meant air- or wind-pipe, and later a blood vessel carrying blood away from the heart).
articulation: Latin artus = joint, hence, articulate - to form a joint.
arytenoid: Greek arytaina = pitcher, and eidos = shape or form, hence the arytenoid cartilage because it curves like a spout.
aspect: a view of more than one surface.
aspera: Latin rough.
asterion: Greek asterios = starry.
astrocyte: Greek astron = star, and kytos = cell, hence a star-shaped (neuroglial) cell.
ataxia,: Greek a = negative, and taxis = order, hence inability to co-ordinate the voluntary muscles.
atlas: Greek atlao = I sustain. Atlas was a mythical god who sustained the globe on his shoulders. The 1st vertebra sustains the skull, and its upper surface bears 2 concavities which suggest Atlas' palms, not shoulders.
atresia: Greek a = negative, and tresis = a hole, hence an absence or closure of a body orifice or tubular organ
atrium: Latin = entrance hall, adjective - atrial.
atrophy: Greek a = negative, and trophe = food, hence wasting from starvation.
auditory: Latin audire = to hear, hence, pertaining to the ear.
auricle: Latin auricula = a little ear.
auscultate: Latin ausculto = to listen to, hence, auscultation, the act of listening to a bodily activity.
autonomic: adjective, Greek auto = self, and nomos = law, hence self-regulating.
axilla: Latin armpit.
axis: Latin axis = the central line of a body or part thereof, especially the imaginary line around which rotation takes place.
axon: Latin axis = axis, hence the main process of a neuron conducting impulses away from the cell body.
azygos: adjective, Greek a = negative, and zygos = paired, hence, unpaired.
basilar: adjective, Latin basis = base.
basilic: adjective, Greek basilikos = royal (king-sized).
biceps: Latin bis = double, and caput = head, hence 2-headed, adjective - bicipital.
bifid: adjective, Latin bis = double, and findo = to split.
bifurcate: Latin bis = double, and furco = fork, hence to divide into two.
bilateral: Latin bi = two, lateral = side, hence, pertaining to two (both) sides.
bipennate: adjective, Latin bis = double, and pinna = feather, hence converging from 2 sides.
body: the main part.
border: see margin.
brachiocephalic: Latin brachium = arm, and Greek kephale = head, hence a blood vessel related to the upper limb and head.
brachium: Latin = arm, adjective - brachial.
branchia: Greek = gills, adjective - branchial.
bregma: from a Greek word implying moist, referring to the site of the anterior fontanelle (q.v.), a little fountain, the site of junction of the coronal and sagittal sutures, where the brain can be felt pulsating in infancy.
brevis: Latin = short - cf. brief.
bronchiole: diminutive of bronchus, hence a small bronchus (bronchi have cartilage in their walls, bronchioles have no cartilage).
bronchus: derivation unhelpful - a branch of the trachea, adjective - bronchial.
buccal: adjective, Latin bucca = cheek.
buccinator: Latin = trumpeter - hence the muscle which blows air out from the cheek under pressure.
bulbus: Latin = bulb or onion.
bulla: Latin = bubble.
bursa: Greek = a purse, hence a flattened sac containing a film of fluid.
caecum: Latin = blind.
calcaneus: Latin calx = heel, hence the bone of the heel.
calcar: Latin = a spur.
calcar avis: Latin the spur of a bird, hence a spur-like elevation.
calcarine: Latin calcar = spur, hence spur-shaped.
calf: the soft tissue swelling at the back of the leg.
calix: Latin = a wine-cup (plural - calices).
callosum: Latin callum = hard.
calvaria: Latin calva = bald head, hence the part of the skull containing the brain - i.e. cranium minus the facial skeleton.
calyx: Latin = a wine-cup (plural - calyces).
canal: Latin canalis = a water-pipe or canal.
canaliculus: diminutive of canal.
cancellous: adjective, Latin cancelli = grating or lattice.
canine: adjective, Latin canis = dog.
canthus: Greek kanthos - used at first for rim of eye, then angle between ends of rims.
capillary: Latin capillaris = hair-like, hence a very thin blood vessel.
capitate: adjective, having a caput from Latin capitis = of a head (q.v.).
capitulum: diminutive of caput, Latin = head.
capsule: Latin capsa = box, hence an enclosing sheet.
caput: Latin = head. Capitis - of a head, adjective - capitate = having a head (cf. decapitate).
caput medusae: Latin caput = head, Medusa = Greek mythical female with snake like hair.
cardiac: adjective, Greek kardia = heart.
cardinal: Latin cardinalis = principal, of primary importance.
carina: Latin = a keel.
carneae: Latin carnea = fleshy.
carotid: Greek karoo, to put to sleep (heavy sleep), because compression of the common or internal carotid artery may cause coma.
carpus: Greek = wrist, adjective - carpal.
cartilage: Latin = gristle; adjective - cartilaginous.
caruncle: diminutive of Latin caro = flesh, hence, a small fleshy elevation.
cauda: Latin = tail, adjective - caudate - having a tail.
cauda equina: Latin = a horse's tail.
caudal: Latin cauda = tail, hence toward the tail, inferior (in human anatomy).
caudate: Latin cauda = tail, hence having a tail.
cava: Latin cavum = cave, hollow.
cavernous: Latin containing caverns or cave-like spaces.
cavity: Latin cavitas = a hollow.
cavum: Latin = cave.
cecum: Latin = blind.
celiac: adjective, Greek koilia = belly.
celom: Greek koilos = a hollow
central: adjective, Latin centrum = centre.
centrum: Latin = centre.
cephalic: adjective, Greek kephale = head.
cerebellum: diminutive of Latin cerebrum = brain.
cerebrum: Latin = brain, adjective - cerebral.
cerumen: Latin cera = wax.
cervical: adjective, Latin cervix = neck, hence, pertaining to the neck.
cervix: Latin = neck, adjective - cervical.
chiasma: Greek kiasma = cross. (The Greek letter chi = c).
choana: Greek = funnel, plural - choanae.
chondral: adjective, Greek chondros = cartilage.
chorda: Latin = cord.
choroid: adjective, Greek chorion = skin and eidos = shape or form, hence, like a membrane.
chyle: Greek = juice.
chyli: Greek = juice.
ciliary: adjective, Latin cilia = eyelashes.
cilium: Latin = eyelid, hence, an eyelash; adjective - ciliary, or ciliated.
cinereum: Latin cineris = of ashes.
cingulum: Latin girdle or belt, adjective - cingulate.
circumflex: verb and adjective, Latin circum = around, and flexere = to bend, hence, bend or bent around.
cisterna: Latin = a cistern.
claustrum: Latin clausum = closed, hence a barrier.
clavicle: diminutive of Latin clavis = key - old Roman key was S-shaped.
cleido: Greek, cleis = key, a combining form denoting relationship to the clavicle.
clinoid: adjective, Greek kline = bed, eidos = shape or form, hence, like a bed-post.
clivus: Latin = slope (cf. declivity).
cloaca: Latin = a drain, sewer; common opening for intestinal, urinary and genital tracts in lower vertebrates, it is a transitory structure in human embryological development.
coccyx: Greek kokkyx = cuckoo, whose bill the coccyx resembles.
cochlea: Latin = snail, hence the spiral cochlea, adjective - cochlear.
coeliac: adjective, Greek koilia = belly.
coeruleus: adjective, Latin = blue, hence, locus coeruleus, a group of nerve cells in the rostral pons coloured blue or black by melanin.
coli: Latin = of the colon.
collateral: adjective, Latin con = together, and latus = side, hence, alongside.
colli: genetive (possessive case) of collum, Latin = neck
colliculus: diminutive of Latin collis = hill.
collum: Latin = neck (cf. collar).
colon: Greek kolon = large intestine.
columna: Latin = column, or pillar.
comitans: adjective, Latin = accompanying.
commissure: Latin con = together, and missum = sent, hence fibres which cross between symmetrical parts.
communicans: adjective, Latin = communicating.
concha: Latin = shell.
condyle: Greek kondylos = knuckle.
confluens: Latin con = together, and fluens = flowing, hence the meeting of more than one stream.
conjunctiva: Latin con = with, and junctus = joined (cf. junction), hence the continuous bulbar and palpebral lining membrane.
conoid: Greek konoeides = resembling a cone, cone shape
constrictor: Latin con = together, and strictum = drawn tight, hence, producing narrowing.
contour: Greek tornos = lathe, hence a line which turns - an outline.
contralateral: Latin contra = against, latus = side, hence, the opposite side (as opposed to ipsilateral)
conus: Latin = cone, conus medullaris - the lower end of the spinal cord.
coracoid: adjective, Greek korax = a crow, and eidos = shape or form, hence, like a crow's beak.
cornea: Latin cornu = horn, hence, the dense tissue forming the front of the eyeball.
corniculate: Latin = shaped like a small horn.
cornu: Latin = horn.
corona: Latin = crown. adjective - coronary or coronal; hence a coronal plane is parallel to the main arch of a crown which passes from ear to ear (cf. coronal suture).
coronal: Latin corona = crown; hence a coronal plane is parallel to the main arch of a crown which passes from ear to ear (cf. coronal suture).
coronary: adjective, Latin = crown, hence, encircling like a crown.
coronoid: adjective, Greek korone = a crown, eidos = shape or form, hence, shaped like a crown.
corpus: Latin = body, plural - corpora.
corpuscle: Latin = a little body.
corrugator: Latin con = together, and ruga = wrinkle, hence a muscle that produces wrinkles.
cortex: Latin = bark, adjective, cortical.
costa: Latin = rib. adjective - costal.
coxa: Latin = hip, hence os coxae = the hip bone.
cranium: Greek kranion = skull. (In anthropology = skull minus mandible) adjective - cranial.
cremaster: Greek = suspender, hence the muscle which suspends the testis.
cribriform: adjective, Latin cribrum = sieve, hence, sieve-like.
cricoid: adjective, Greek krikos = ring, and eidos = shape or form, hence, ring-like, i.e. circular.
crista: Latin = crest, crista galli = the (median) crest of a cock.
cruciate: adjective, Latin crux = cross, hence, crossed like the letter X.
crus: Latin = leg, plural - crura.
cubital: adjective, Latin cubitus = elbow.
cuboid: adjective, Greek kuboides = cube-shaped.
culmen: Latin = summit (cf. culminate).
cuneate: adjective, Latin = a wedge.
cuneiform: adjective, Latin cuneus = wedge, hence wedge-shaped.
cuneus: Latin = a wedge, adjective - cuneate.
cupola: Latin = little dome.
cupula: Latin = little dome.
cusp: Latin cuspis = a pointed elevation.
cutaneous: adjective, Latin cutis = skin.
cyst: Greek kystis = bladder, adjective - cystic.
dartos: Greek = flayed or skinned.
declive: Latin declivitas = slope (cf. clivus).
decussation: Latin decussatus = crossed like the letter X.
deep: further from the surface.
deferens: adjective, Latin = carrying down.
deglutition: Latin deglutire = to swallow, hence the act of swallowing.
dehiscence: Latin de = away, hiscere = to gape, hence, a separation, a splitting away.
deltoid: adjective, Greek delta (D). The capital has a triangular shape (cf. the delta of the Nile river).
dendrite: or dendron, Greek = a tree, hence like the branches of a tree.
dens: Latin = tooth (cf. dentist), adjective - dental.
dentate: Latin dens = tooth, hence, having a toothed margin.
denticulate: Latin dens = tooth, hence, having small tooth-like projections.
dentine: from Latin dens = tooth; the substance of the tooth surrounding the pulp.
depress: Latin de = prefix implying descent, and pressum = pressed, hence to press down, and depression = downward movement or a concavity on a surface.
dermatome: Greek derma = skin, tome = a cutting or division, hence a segment of skin supplied by a single spinal ganglion.
dermis: Greek = skin, adjective - dermal.
detrusor: Latin detrusio = thrust away.
diaphragm: Greek dia = across, and phragma = wall, hence, a partition, adjective - diaphragmatic (see also phrenic).
diaphysis: Greek dia = apart, and physis = growth, hence, the body of a long bone between the growing regions near the ends.
diastole: Greek dia = apart, and stellein = sending, hence sending the walls of the heart apart, i.e. relaxation or dilatation. Adjective - diastolic.
diencephalon: Greek dia = between, and enkephalos = brain, hence in general the structures surrounding the 3rd ventricle. adjective - diencephalic.
digastric: adjective, Greek dia = double, and gaster = belly, hence, 2-bellied.
digit: Latin digitus = a finger or toe, usually excepting the pollex (thumb) or hallux (big toe), adjective - digital.
diplopia: Greek diploos = double, and opsis = vision, hence double vision.
diploë: Greek = fold, hence the cancellous bone between the inner and outer tables of the skull, adjective - diploic.
discus: Latin = disc.
dissection: Latin disssecare = to cut up, from dis = apart, sectum = cut (c.f. anatomy).
distal: adjective, Latin di = apart, and stans = standing, hence, standing apart, implying farther from a given point, usually the root of a limb.
diverticulum: Latin = by-road, hence a blind tubular process or sac.
dorsal: adjective, Latin dorsum = back.
dorsum: Latin = back.
ductus: Latin = duct.
duodenum: Latin duodenarius = twelve, because it is 12 fingerbreadths long.
dura: adjective, Latin = hard (cf. durable); dura mater, the tough covering membrane of the central nervous system.
dysphagia: Greek dys = difficult, and phagein = to eat, hence, difficulty in swallowing.
ectoderm: Greek ektos = outside, and derm = skin, hence, the outermost germ layer of the embryo.
ectopic: Greek ek = out, and topos = place, hence out of place.
edge: border or margin of a surface.
efferent: adjective, Latin ex = out, and ferens = carrying, hence, conducting from.
ejaculatory: Latin ex = out, and jacere = to throw, hence throwing out.
elbow: the junction between arm and forearm.
elevate: Latin elevatus = raised up, hence, to raise up, and elevation = a raised part.
emboliformis: adjective, Greek embolus = wedge or blocking matter.
embryo: Greek en = within, and bryein = to swell or grow, hence the early stage of intrauterine development.
eminence: Latin eminens = projecting, hence, a projection (usually smooth).
emissary: adjective, Latin e = out, and emissum = sent out; emissary vein, one connecting intra- with extra-cranial venous channels.
encephalon: Greek en = within, and kephalos = head, hence, the brain.
endocardium: Greek endo = within, and kardia = heart, hence, the endothelial lining of the chambers of the heart.
endocranium: Greek endo = within, and kranion = skull, hence, the outer endostial layer of the dura mater.
endocrine: Greek endo = within, and krinein = to separate, hence, the organs that ductlessly secrete their products into the bloodstream.
endoderm: Greek endo = within, and derm = skin, hence, the germ layer of the embryo that gives rise to epithelium of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.
endolymph: Greek endo = within, and Latin lympha = clear water, hence the fluid within the membranous labyrinth of the internal ear.