When talking about bones and teeth, we will certainly must usage numerous terms to orient ourselves. Several of the terms are apparent, prefer appropriate and left. Other intuitive terms can fail us, yet. For example, we could use greater and reduced to refer to parts of our arms, however these terms will be confusing if we lift our arms over our heads. Even left and appropriate can cause confusion: periodically we must talk around the left surface of our right arm, for circumstances. For reasons favor these, anthropologists usage terms via particular anatomical definitions to talk around the positions of bones and also attributes on them.

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Humans are special compared to many vertebrates in having a vertebral axis that runs approximately up and down, at least while we are standing up. For this factor, a lengthy heritage in human anatomy offers these terms:

Superior: Higher. The nose is remarkable to the mouth.

Inferior: Lower. The nostrils are a lot of visible on the inferior element of the nose.

These terms are constantly used when referring to directions on the head. For the postcranial skeleton, we might also use cranial and also caudal, which orient alengthy the axis of the spine. For animals that don’t bring their spine in an upbest or vertical place, cranial and also caudal will certainly always signify the same directions.

The vertebral axis is just one direction, and our bodies have actually 2 additional directions: front to earlier, and side to side. The terms for the front to ago direction are:

Anterior: Toward the front. The nose is on the anterior side of the head.

Posterior: Toward the rear. The posterior side of the head is frequently extended in hair.

Dorsal: In people, towards the ago of the torso. The shoulder knives are dorsal to the ribs.

Ventral: In human beings, toward the front of the torso. The navel is on the ventral aspect of the body.

In humans, dorsal and also ventral are largely identified via posterior and anterior, and the latter terms are regularly offered. In animals through habitual postures that are various than ours, dorsal and also ventral retain an anatomical meaning that is unreadjusted and also for this reason proccasion confusion.

Left and right are absolute terms instead of relative terms. These terms separate one fifty percent of the body from the other. The appropriate arm will certainly constantly be the appropriate arm, and the appropriate lung is right also though it is not as much ideal as the appropriate arm.

To describe the place of a feature relative to one more, the adhering to terms are used:

Medial: Closer to the midline, or dividing line in between best and left halves, of the body. The neck is medial to the shoulder.

Lateral: Farther from the midline. The eye is lateral to the nose.

The limbs are special situations, because they can move a great deal family member to the spine. For the limbs, anterior, posterior, medial, and also lateral are all family member terms offered in reference to a specific limb position, dubbed the anatomical position. For human beings, the arms are in anatomical place once hanging at the sides of the body, palms forward, and also the legs are in anatomical place in a normal standing posture, feet side by side. This suggests that the pinky side of the wrist is medial, and the thumb side is lateral. Superior and inferior are not offered for the limbs at all. These terms are reinserted by:

Proximal: Closer to the suggest of attachment with the torso. In various other words, closer to the shoulder or the hip. The elbow is proximal to the wrist.

Distal: Farther from the point of attachment. The ankle is distal to the knee.


These terms have the right to be somewhat confusing to learn, however they prevent a great deal of confusion in referring to bones and also their features. The a lot of prevalent onesin this course will certainly be anterior, posterior, superior, inferior, medial, lateral, proximal, and distal. Teeth and also the hands and also feet each have a couple of distinct directional terms, which will certainly be introduced together with these anatomical areas.

Updated: January 21, 2013

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