Anatomy Terminology

Anatomy – The study of the structure of the body and the relationships between the structures.

Physiology – Study of the function of the body parts

Pathology – Structural and functional changes associated with diseases.

  • Etiology – Etio =cause. Study of the cause of disease
  • Sign – Objective evidence of disease that can be observed or measured.
  • Symptom – Subjective change in body function not apparent to an observer and can’t be measured.
  • Treatment – the management and care of a patient or client

Levels of Structural Organization

Levels of Structural Organization of the Human Body The organization of the body often is discussed in terms of six distinct levels of increasing complexity, from the smallest chemical building blocks to a unique human organism. Download for free at[email protected].
  1. Atoms – Smallest building block of matter made up of protons, electrons and neutrons. Two or more atoms combine to form molecules which are the building block of body structures. Some examples are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen
  2. Chemicals – Subatominc particles, atoms and molecules form elements which essential for maintaining life
  3. Cellular – basic structural and functional units are called cells of an organism (muscle cells, nerve cells, blood cells)
  4. Tissues – A group of similar cells that have a similar origin in the embryo and perform specific functions.  The four basic tissue types are epithelium, connective tissue, muscle tissue, nerve tissue.
  5. Organs – Composed of two or more different tissues and have specific functions and recognizable shape.  Examples: brain, stomach, liver.
  6. System – Related organs that have a common function like the digestive system that is composed of the mouth, salivary glands, throat, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gall bladder and pancreas.  The systems are integumentary, skeletal, nervous, muscular, endocrine, respiratory, lymphatic, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems.
  7. Organism – Living individual

Anatomical Position – erect, palms forward, feet flat on the floor, arms at the side.

Directional Terms Applied to the Human Body Paired directional terms are shown as applied to the human body. Access for free at
  1. Prone – lying horizontal, face down
  2. Supine- lying horizontal, face up
  3. Superior- above or in a higher position
  4. Inferior- below or lower position
  5. Anterior – ventral – front
  6. Posterior – dorsal – back
  7. Cranial – near the head
  8. Caudal – near the sacral region of spinal column
  9. Medial – toward midline of the body
  10. Lateral – away from the midline towards the side
  11. Contralateral –
  12. ipsilateral
  13. Proximal – nearest the origin of a structure
  14. Distal – farthest away from a region
  15. Superficial – towards surface
  16. Deep – Internal
  17. Palmar
  18. Dorsal
  19. Ventral
  20. Plantar
  21. Peripheral
  22. Central
  23. Internal
  24. External

Planes of the body

Planes of the Body The three planes most commonly used in anatomical and medical imaging are the sagittal, frontal (or coronal), and transverse plane.
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  1. Midsagittal – Vertical Plane that divides the body or organ into right and left sides. A Midsaggital plane passes through the midline.
  2. Frontal – (coronal) divides the body or organ into anterior and posterior (front and back)
  3. Horizontal or Transverse – divides the body or organ into superior and inferior
  4. Oblique – divides the body or organ at an angle

Body movements

  1. flexion
  2.  extension
  3. Abduction
  4. adduction
  5. rotation
  6. medial rotation
  7. lateral rotation
  8. left or right lateral flexion
  9. supination
  10. pronation
  11. elevation
  12. depression
  13. protraction
  14. retraction
  15. upward rotation
  16. downward rotation
  17. inversion
  18. eversion
  19. dorsiflexion
  20. plantar flexion
  21. circumduction

Body Regions

Head (Cephalic)

  1. Skull (Cranial)
    forehead (frontal)
  2. Face – Facial
    eye – Orbital
    ear – Otic
    cheek – Buccal
    nose – Nasal
    mouth – Oral
    chine- Mental
  3. Neck – Cervical
  4. Shoulder- Acromial
  5. Upper Extremity
    armpit – axillary
    arm- brachial
    Front of elbow- antecubital
    Back of elbow- Olecranial
    Wrist- carpal
    Palm – metacarpal
    Posterior surface of hand – dorsal
    Fingers – Phalangeal
  6. Trunk –Front
    Chest – thoracic
    Breast- mammary
  7. Abdomen
    Navel – umbilical
    Hip – Coxal
    Pubis- Pubic
  8. Trunk –the Back
    Back – Dorsal
    Loin – Lumbar
  9. Lower Extremity
    Buttock – Gluteal
    Thigh- Femoral
    Anterior knee – Popliteal
    Leg – Crural
    Calf – Sural
  10. Foot – Pedal
    Ankle – Tarsal
    Top of Foot – Dorsal
    Sole of Foot- Plantar
    Heel- Calcaneal
    Toes – Digital or Phalangeal

Body Cavities

Dorsal and Ventral Body Cavities The ventral cavity includes the thoracic and abdominopelvic cavities and their subdivisions. The dorsal cavity includes the cranial and spinal cavities. Access for free at
  1.  Dorsal Cavity – Posterior
    Cranial Cavity – skull (cranial ) bones, contain the brain
    Spinal Cavity – or vertebral cavity; vertebrae which contains the spinal cord
  2. Ventral Cavity – Anterior; two subdivisions
    Thoracic Cavity – chest cavity, enclosed by ribs; separated from the abdominal cavity by the diaphragm. contain heart and lungs.
    Made up of Pleural cavity which contains the lungs. Pericardial cavity contains the heart. Mediastinum contains the lungs from the breastbone to the vertebrae that contain the heart, thymus, esophagus, trachea and several blood vessels and lymphatic vessels

    Abdominopelvic cavity – area below diaphragm;
    Abdominal Cavity – contains stomach, spleen, liver, pancreas, small intestine and most of large intestine
    Pelvic Cavity – contains urinary bladder, reproductive organs and some large intestines.
  3. Abdominal quadrants:

    right upper quadrant – (RUQ) stomach, duodenum, liver, gall bladder, rt. transverse colon
    left upper quadrant – (LUQ ) stomach, spleen, left transverse colon
Regions and Quadrants of the Peritoneal Cavity There are (a) nine abdominal regions and (b) four abdominal quadrants in the peritoneal cavity. Access for free at

right lower quadrant – (RLQ) appendix, ascending colon, sacroiliac joint

  left lower quadrant – ( LLQ) descending colon, sacroiliac joint