When talking about bones and also teeth, us will need to use several terms to orient ourselves. Several of the terms are obvious, choose right and left. Various other intuitive terms deserve to fail us, however. Because that example, we could use greater and lower to refer to components of our arms, yet these terms will be confound if us lift our arms over our heads. Even left and also right can reason confusion: sometimes we have to talk about the left surface ar of our right arm, because that instance. Because that reasons prefer these, anthropologists use terms with details anatomical interpretations to talk about the location of bones and features on them.

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Humans room special contrasted to plenty of vertebrates in having actually a vertebral axis that runs about up and also down, at least while we room standing up. Because that this reason, a long heritage in human being anatomy provides these terms:

Superior: Higher. The sleep is exceptional to the mouth.

Inferior: Lower. The nostrils are most visible on the inferior aspect of the nose.

These state are always used as soon as referring to directions on the head. Because that the postcranial skeleton, us may likewise use cranial and also caudal, i beg your pardon orient follow me the axis the the spine. For animals that don’t carry their spine in an upright or vertical position, cranial and also caudal will constantly denote the exact same directions.

The vertebral axis is just one direction, and also our bodies have two added directions: front come back, and side come side. The terms for the prior to earlier direction are:

Anterior: towards the front. The sleep is on the anterior next of the head.

Posterior: toward the rear. The posterior next of the head is commonly covered in hair.

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

Ventral: In humans, toward the prior of the torso. The navel is ~ above the ventral element of the body.

In humans, dorsal and ventral are largely synonymous v posterior and anterior, and the latter terms are often used. In animals with habitual postures that are different than ours, dorsal and also ventral maintain an anatomical meaning that is unchanged and thus stop confusion.

Left and right room absolute terms rather of relative terms. This terms different one fifty percent of the human body from the other. The right arm will always be the best arm, and also the best lung is right even though it is no as much right together the appropriate arm.

To refer to the position of a feature relative to another, the complying with terms are used:

Medial: Closer come the midline, or splitting line between right and also left halves, that the body. The neck is medial to the shoulder.

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

The limbs space special cases, because they deserve to move a good deal family member to the spine. For the limbs, anterior, posterior, medial, and also lateral room all family member terms provided in reference to a specific limb position, dubbed the anatomical position. Because that humans, the arms space in anatomical position as soon as hanging in ~ the political parties of the body, palms forward, and the legs are in anatomical position in a typical standing posture, feet side by side. This method that the pinky side of the wrist is medial, and the ignorance side is lateral. Superior and inferior space not used for the limbs at all. These terms are replaced by:

Proximal: Closer to the point of attachment with the torso. In various other words, closer come 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 deserve to be rather confusing come learn, yet they stop a good deal of man in introduce to bones and their features. The most typical onesin this course will certainly be anterior, posterior, superior, inferior, medial, lateral, proximal, and also distal. Teeth and the hands and also feet each have a couple of special directional terms, which will certainly be introduced together with these anatomical areas.

Updated: January 21, 2013

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