BI1002 Essential Terminology

  • Created by: tashajade
  • Created on: 14-02-18 11:17

Why is the use of anatomical and scientific termin

= Enables universal/worldwide precise communication

- Clarity and accuracy

- Professional

- Conserved- enables comparisons between different organisms

- Descriptive = many terms provide info on shape, size, location, function or about the resemblance of one structure (relative) to another

- Colloquial/lay terminology must also be understood in order to communicate with the public (when they are telling you what's wrong and where you are then diagnosing them)

- Most terms have greek and latin origins (learn their meanings = their terms make sense)

eg Armpit = AXILLA, Tummy/stomach = ABDOMEN. Belly button = UMBILICUS

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Prefixes & Suffixes (examples)

'Cyto-' = Cell (eg cytoskeleton)

'Bi-' = Two (eg Bicep)

'Tri-' = Three (eg Tricep)

'-Oid' = Like (eg Deltoid muscle = shaped like the Greek delta symbol (triangular))

'-Itis' = Inflammation (eg Tonsilitis)

'-Ulum' = Little or Small (eg Capitulum (small head))

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Description & Location (examples)

'Gastrikos' / 'Gaster' = Stomach (eg Digastric Muscle (muscle divided into two bellies), Gastroesopheal junction or esophagogastric junction (where esophagus connects with stomach), Gastric acid (digestive juice secreted by stomach)

'Serratus' = 'like the teeth of a saw' (eg Serrated Leaf, Serratus Anterior (abs/abdominal muscles))

'Temporal Muscle' = located in the temporal region (temple) of the cranium (skull)

In some cases, actions are used to describe anatomical features ... eg the Levator Scapulae, elevates the Scapula (Shoulder Blade)

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The Anatomical Position


= one consistent position which all anatomical descriptions are expressed in relation to = REFERENCE POINT

Ensures anatomical descriptions = not ambiguous and enables you to provide an accurate description of body and the relationship between one structure and another

Make sure (if you get stuck) that you always start with this position

What it is

- Stood upright

- Head, gaze (eyes) and toes directed anteriorly = forward

- Arms adjacent to the sides, palms facing anteriorly

- Lower limbs close together with the feet parallel

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The Anatomical Position 2


- When in upright position- gravity causes a DOWNWARD SHIFT of internal organs (viscera)

- Exception to the anatomical position--- medically, people are typically examined in the SUPINE position (lying down flat) so often necessary to describe positions of affected organs in supine position

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Body Planes


Anatomical descriptions = based on 4 (imaginary) planes which intersect the body in the anatomical position

Important- medical imaging of the body and appreciating the 3D arrangement of anatomy

Without cutting body into sections = can't fully understand what is next to each other

This is at macro and micro scales (eg body as a whole, or just one organ etc.)

Remember- appreciate the 3D arrangement of the body

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Body Planes 2

1. Coronal (Frontal) Planes

Vertical planes passing through the body at right angles to the median plane

Divides body into anterior (front) and posterior (back) sections

Sometimes known as the Dorsal plane in animals- remember that animals are on all fours (same principle but division is in a horizontal orientation instead of a vertical one)

2. Transverse (Axial) Planes

Horizontal (cutting through the axis) planes passing through the body at right angles to BOTH the median and frontal planes

Radiologists commonly call these ransaxial lanes = shortened to axial planes

Divides body into superior (upper) and inferior (lower) sections

Also known as cross-sectional

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Body Planes 3

3. Sagittal (Para-Sagittal) Planes

Verticle planes passing through the body parallel to and on either side of the median plane

Division is not into equal left and right halves

4. Median (Mid-Sagittal) Plane

AKA Midline

The vertical plane passing longitudinally through the body, dividing the body into equal left and right halves

Defines the midline (of the body) of the head, neck and trunk where it intersects the surface of the body

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Body Planes 4


 How Transverse, Frontal and Sagittal planes are plural, whereas the Median plane is singular

= the no. of transverse, frontal and sagittal planes = unlimited... need a reference point to identify the location or level of the plane (usually visible landmark or vertebral level)

eg "A transverse plane through the umbilicus"

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Main use of body planes = describe 3 kinds of sections

1. Longitudinal sections

Run lengthwise or parallel to the long axis of the body or any of its parts

Applies no matter what position the body is in

Standard sections = median, sagittal and frontal (although there is a 180 degree range of longitudinal sections)

2. Transverse sections

Run horizontal or perpendicular (at right angles) to the long/longitudinal axis of the body or any of its parts

= cross-sections

Mainly the median plane but there are clever exceptions eg because the long axis of the foot is horizontal, a transverse section of the foot lies in the frontal plane

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Sections 2

Remember there can be multiple transverse/cross-sections of the heart which show you different things (valves, atria, ventricles, etc.)

3. Oblique sections

Slices of the body OR any of its parts which are not cut along the anatomical planes I have listed

In reality, many radiographic images and anatomical sections are slightly oblique = don't lie in transverse, sagittal or frontal planes

Sections may be obtained by anatomical sectioning or medical imaging techniques (eg CT/Computer Tomography scans)........ all to describe and display internal structures 

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Directional Terms


Descriptions of structure and relationships

= adjectives that describe the location of one structure relative to another (comparison)

'Next to' and 'above' = not good enough and promote confusion

Directional terms = really important in structural anatomy

Note- when using directional terms you must say one thing is *something" to the other

Eg A is inferior to B

Humans sometimes have different directional terms to those in neuroscience and zoology

Don't forget about right and left- simple but important!

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Directional Terms 2

Superior/Inferior- humans

Superior = towards/nearer to the head

Inferior = towards/nearer to the feet

Cranial/Caudal- neuroscience and zoology

Cranial/Rostral = towards the head/ nose or beak (respectively)

(Cranium = skull, rostrum = beak)

Caudal = towards the tail

(This is possible in humans (we have the coccyx = tail bone))

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Directional Terms 3

Posterior/Anterior- humans

Posterior = towards the back

Anterior = towards the front

Rostral = often used instead of anterior when describing the brain.. = nearer the anterior part of the head (eg frontal lobe of the brain is rostral to the cerebellum)

Dorsal/Ventral- zoology and neuroscience

Dorsal = towards the back i.e. dorsal fin in dolphins and sharks

Ventral = towards the front

Palmar surface = surface of the hands and fingers corresponding to the palm (opposite = dorsal surface)

Plantar surface = surface of the feet and toes corresponding to the sole of the foot (opposite = dorsal surface)

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Directional Terms 4


Medial = closer to the midline of the body (median plane)

Lateral = further away from midline

eg 1st digit of the hand (thumb) = lateral to other digits

5th digit of the hand (little finger) = medial to other digits


= combined terms to describe intermediate positions

Superolateral = nearer the head and further from the median plane

eg the anterior parts of the ribs run superolaterally

Inferomedial = nearer the feet (soles) and towards the midline

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Directional Terms 5

Terms independent of the anatomical position or planes, which primarily relate to the body's surface or its central core


Usually used in relation to the limbs

Distal = Closer to the body/central core

Proximal = Further away from the body, closer to the body's surface

Nearer to (proximal) or further from (distal) the attachment of a limb or the central aspect of a linear structure


Superficial = on top of (overlying) = closer to the skin/bodily surface

Deep = underneath (underlying structure) = further away from skin/bodily surface

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Directional Terms 6

Terms independent of the anatomical position or planes, which primarily relate to the body's surface or its central core


External = outside or further from the central aspect of an organ/cavity

Internal = inside or closer to the centre of an organ/cavity = independent of direction

Terms of Laterility

Unilateral = structures occuring on one side only eg spleen

Bilateral = paired structures with right and left members eg kidney (when describing, specify which side, right or left)

Ipsilateral = something which occurs on the same side of the body as another structure eg the right thumb and right great (big) toe

Contralateral = occurs on opposite side of body relative to a structure eg right and left hand

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Movements of the Limbs

Arranged in pairs of opposites

Limb/extremity/appendage = arm/leg

eg 'Adduction of the arm at the shoulder'


Generally occur in frontal plane around an anteroposterior axis 

Abduction = moving away from median plane (except in digits = spreading them apart)

Adduction = moving towards median plane


Generally occur in sagittal planes around a transverse axis

Flexion = bending or decreasing the angle between bones or parts of body

Extension = stretching or increasing the angle, usually in a posterior direction

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Movement of the Limbs 2


Rotational movements of the forearm and hand (rotation of radius)

Pronation = palms of hands flat down, dorsum up/faces anteriorly

Supination = palms of hands face anteriorly


a circular movement that involves sequential flexion, abduction, extension, and adduction (or in the opposite order) in such a way that the distal end of the part (furthest away from joint) moves in a circle

Eg shoulder and hip joints

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Why is the use of anatomical and scientific  terminology important? What terms can be used to describe the body? In what planes can the body be cut? What terms can be used to describe the movements of the body?

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