It’s fairly easy to become obsessed with wanting to understand human anatomy—how we’re all put together.
It’s also very easy to enjoy the terminology of anatomy.
Occasionally, it helps to stop and think about a name for a muscle.
Building a muscle with clay (as we suggest here at Anatomy in Clay® Learning System, ahem) will help you learn anatomy in a way you’ll never forget. But understanding the words and their origins can help you lock in the meaning, too.
There’s really no better list on the web than the one from Emory University.
Here are ten of our favorites.
1. Achilles. Greek. The infant Achilles was dipped into the river Styx by his mother to render him impervious to wounds. She held him by his heel, which remained vulnerable, and it was in the heel that he was fatally wounded by an arrow at the battle of Troy.
2. Adrenal. Latin. ad = to, and renal from ren = kidney. The adrenal gland lies above the kidney and is sometimes called the suprarenal.
3. Capillary. Latin. capillaris = relating to the hair; hence any structure as fine as a hair.
4. Muscle. Latin. musculus, diminutive of mus = a mouse. Thus a muscle was a little mouse running about under the skin.
5. Phalanx. Greek. phalanx (plural phalanges) = soldiers in close order. A good term for the bones of the toes and fingers.
6. Sacrum. Latim. sacer = sacred. Sacrum is the neuter form of sacer, and was applied to this pelvic keystone because this bone was thought to survive after death and form a part of the body after resurrection.
7. Sartorius. Latin. sartor = a tailor. This muscle was so named because it is employed in squatting in the usual position of an old fashion tailor, with the legs crossed.
8. Serratus. Latin. serratus = notched, from serra = a saw. The serratus muscle has a jagged edge.
9. Tragus. Greek. tragos = a male goat. This part of the external ear received this name because of the hairs which grow there, like a billy goat.
10. Vitreous. Latin. vitreus = glassy. Applied to the vitreous humor of the eye. The word comes originally from vitrum = glass; and from this comes the phrase in vitro, meaning in a glass receptacle, as contrasted with in vivo, in the living body.
The mantra at Anatomy in Clay® Learning System is “the mind cannot forget what the hands of learned™.”