When talking about bones and also teeth, us will must use several terms to orient ourselves. Few of the terms room obvious, like right and also left. Other intuitive terms have the right to fail us, however. Because that example, we might use higher and reduced to refer to components of ours arms, but these terms will certainly be confusing if we lift our arms end our heads. Also left and also right can cause confusion: sometimes we must talk about the left surface of our best arm, because that instance. Because that reasons choose these, anthropologists use terms with certain anatomical interpretations to talk about the location of bones and features ~ above them.

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Humans room special contrasted to countless vertebrates in having actually a vertebral axis that runs roughly up and down, at least while we are standing up. Because that this reason, a long tradition in human anatomy uses these terms:

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

Inferior: Lower. The nostrils are most visible ~ above the inferior facet of the nose.

These state are constantly used as soon as referring to direction on the head. For the postcranial skeleton, us may likewise use cranial and caudal, i m sorry orient follow me the axis that the spine. For animals that don’t lug their spine in one upright or vertical position, cranial and caudal will always denote the very same directions.

The vertebral axis is only one direction, and also our bodies have actually two added directions: front come back, and also side come side. The terms because that the front to ago direction are:

Anterior: toward the front. The sleep is ~ above the anterior side of the head.

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

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

Ventral: In humans, towards the former of the torso. The navel is on the ventral aspect of the body.

In humans, dorsal and ventral are mainly synonymous with posterior and also anterior, and also the last terms are frequently used. In animals with habitual postures that are different than ours, dorsal and ventral maintain an anatomical an interpretation that is unchanged and also thus stop confusion.

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

To refer to the place of a attribute relative come another, the following terms room used:

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

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

The limbs space special cases, since they deserve to move a great deal family member to the spine. Because that the limbs, anterior, posterior, medial, and also lateral room all relative terms offered in recommendation to a details limb position, called the anatomical position. For humans, the arms room in anatomical position when hanging in ~ the sides of the body, palms forward, and also the legs room in anatomical position in a normal standing posture, feet side by side. This means that the pinky next of the wrist is medial, and the thumb side is lateral. Superior and inferior space not offered for the four at all. These terms are changed by:

Proximal: Closer come the point of attachment v the torso. In other words, closer to the shoulder or the hip. The elbow is proximal to the wrist.

Distal: Farther native the allude of attachment. The fish eye is distal come the knee.


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These terms deserve to be rather confusing come learn, but they avoid a an excellent deal of man in referring to bones and their features. The most common onesin this course will be anterior, posterior, superior, inferior, medial, lateral, proximal, and distal. Teeth and also the hands and feet each have actually a few special directional terms, which will certainly be introduced together with these anatomical areas.

Updated: January 21, 2013

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