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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the criteria used to name skeletal muscles
  • Explain how understanding the muscle names helps describe shapes, location, and actions of various muscles

The Greeks and Romans conducted the first studies done on the human body in Western culture. The educated class of subsequent societies studied Latin and Greek, and therefore the early pioneers of anatomy continued to apply Latin and Greek terminology or roots when they named the skeletal muscles. The large number of muscles in the body and unfamiliar words can make learning the names of the muscles in the body seem daunting, but understanding the etymology can help. Etymology is the study of how the root of a particular word entered a language and how the use of the word evolved over time. Taking the time to learn the root of the words is crucial to understanding the vocabulary of anatomy and physiology. When you understand the names of muscles it will help you remember where the muscles are located and what they do ( [link] , [link] , and [link] ). Pronunciation of words and terms will take a bit of time to master, but after you have some basic information; the correct names and pronunciations will become easier.

Overview of the muscular system

The top panel shows the anterior view of the human body with the major muscles labeled. The bottom panel shows the posterior view of the human body with the major muscles labeled.
On the anterior and posterior views of the muscular system above, superficial muscles (those at the surface) are shown on the right side of the body while deep muscles (those underneath the superficial muscles) are shown on the left half of the body. For the legs, superficial muscles are shown in the anterior view while the posterior view shows both superficial and deep muscles.

Understanding a muscle name from the latin

This table shows two examples of muscle names and how to translate them based on their Latin roots. The first row uses abductor digiti minimi as an example. The word abductor comes from the Latin roots ab, which means away from, and duct, which means to move. Therefore an abductor is a muscle that moves away from something. The word digiti comes from the Latin root digititus, which means digit and refers to a finger or toe. The word minimi comes from the Latin root minimus, which means minimum, tiny, or little. Therefore, the abductor digiti minimi is a muscle that moves the little finger or toe away. The second row uses the adductor digiti minimi as an example. The word adductor comes from the Latin root ad, which means to or toward, and duct, which means to move. Therefore an adductor is a muscle that moves toward something. As with the abductor digiti minimi, digiti refers to a finger or toe and minimi refers to something that is little. Therefore the adductor digiti minimi is a muscle that moves the little finger or toe forward.
Mnemonic Device for Latin Roots
Example Latin or Greek Translation Mnemonic Device
ad to; toward ADvance toward your goal
ab away from n/a
sub under SUBmarines move under water.
ductor something that moves A conDUCTOR makes a train move.
anti against If you are antisocial, you are against engaging in social activities.
epi on top of n/a
apo to the side of n/a
longissimus longest “Longissimus” is longer than the word “long.”
longus long long
brevis short brief
maximus large max
medius medium “Medius” and “medium” both begin with “med.”
minimus tiny; little mini
rectus straight To RECTify a situation is to straighten it out.
multi many If something is MULTIcolored, it has many colors.
uni one A UNIcorn has one horn.
bi/di two If a ring is DIcast, it is made of two metals.
tri three TRIple the amount of money is three times as much.
quad four QUADruplets are four children born at one birth.
externus outside EXternal
internus inside INternal

Anatomists name the skeletal muscles according to a number of criteria, each of which describes the muscle in some way. These include naming the muscle after its shape, its size compared to other muscles in the area, its location in the body or the location of its attachments to the skeleton, how many origins it has, or its action.

The skeletal muscle’s anatomical location or its relationship to a particular bone often determines its name. For example, the frontalis muscle is located on top of the frontal bone of the skull. Similarly, the shapes of some muscles are very distinctive and the names, such as orbicularis, reflect the shape. For the buttocks, the size of the muscles influences the names: gluteus maximus    (largest), gluteus medius    (medium), and the gluteus minimus    (smallest). Names were given to indicate length— brevis    (short), longus    (long)—and to identify position relative to the midline: lateralis    (to the outside away from the midline), and medialis    (toward the midline). The direction of the muscle fibers and fascicles are used to describe muscles relative to the midline, such as the rectus    (straight) abdominis, or the oblique    (at an angle) muscles of the abdomen.

Some muscle names indicate the number of muscles in a group. One example of this is the quadriceps, a group of four muscles located on the anterior (front) thigh. Other muscle names can provide information as to how many origins a particular muscle has, such as the biceps brachii. The prefix bi    indicates that the muscle has two origins and tri    indicates three origins.

The location of a muscle’s attachment can also appear in its name. When the name of a muscle is based on the attachments, the origin is always named first. For instance, the sternocleidomastoid muscle of the neck has a dual origin on the sternum (sterno) and clavicle (cleido), and it inserts on the mastoid process of the temporal bone. The last feature by which to name a muscle is its action. When muscles are named for the movement they produce, one can find action words in their name. Some examples are flexor    (decreases the angle at the joint), extensor    (increases the angle at the joint), abductor    (moves the bone away from the midline), or adductor    (moves the bone toward the midline).

Chapter review

Muscle names are based on many characteristics. The location of a muscle in the body is important. Some muscles are named based on their size and location, such as the gluteal muscles of the buttocks. Other muscle names can indicate the location in the body or bones with which the muscle is associated, such as the tibialis anterior. The shapes of some muscles are distinctive; for example, the direction of the muscle fibers is used to describe muscles of the body midline. The origin and/or insertion can also be features used to name a muscle; examples are the biceps brachii, triceps brachii, and the pectoralis major.

Questions & Answers

Differentiate between pharmacist and apothecary
adanoor Reply
What is metatarsal
Ndotenyin Reply
bone of the foot is known as metatarsal
yes 👆 right
metatarsal (foot bone).....👍
what is the meaning for cadavers
yes metatarsal are foot bone
the term "mental" pertain to which of the following a. chin b.navel c. ear d. nose e. skull
cris Reply
mental chin nerve
e. skull
e. skull
It's not skull but chin
the skull
what are the three many components of the lymphatic system?
Milica Reply
those are...... organ, tissue and blood capillary or vessals
anatomical terms and use them appropriatly in the language of anatomy of anterior body landmarks
Teody Reply
what is human anatomy?
rascal Reply
lts stady structured human body's
what is the study of how the body functions?
What is human anatomy
human antomy is the body of structure
is the study of human body
what is abdomipelvic cavity?
david Reply
Includes all organs within the abdomen(stomach,intestines) and those from the pelvic region hence the name... abdomipelvic
where can we find the short bones
Chidi Reply
Carpal bones are examples of short bones
what is blood supply
on upper limb and lower limb
carpal bones
during pregnancy which would more increase size the mothers abdominal or pelvic cavity?
Nurmalyn Reply
pelvic cavity I think
What is anatomical position
@ Nwoye... when standing erect, feet parallel, arms hanging at the sides with palms facing forward
The pelvic cavity
define the main directional terms of the body
cris Reply
during physical exercise respiratory rate increace two student are discussing the mechanisms involved. student A claim they are positive feedback and student B claim negative feedback do you agree with student A or B and why
what is the physiology of circulation
please I mean the physiology of criculation
blood flow refers to the movement of blood through the vessels from arteries to the capillaries and then to the veins
the heart&the lungs
during pregnancy, which would more size the mother's abdominal or pelvic cavity? explain
cris Reply
list and define the three plane of devision of the body
complete the following statements using correct directional terms for human being. 1. the navel is________to the nose 2. the heart is______to the breastbone(sternum) 3 the ankle is______to the knee 4 the ear is______to the eyes.
1. superior 2. posterior 3. superior 4. lateral
anterior fuerior
inferior medial posterior lateral we
name the system of the body and its function
cris Reply
11 system are human body 1.integumentary system 2. skeletal system 3. muscular system 4. nervous system 5. endocrine system 6. cardiovascular system 7. lymphatic system 8. respiratory system 9. digestive system 10. urinary system 11. reproductive system male and female.
during pregnancy, which would more size the mother's abdominal or pelvic cavity? explain
how the body maintain hormeostasis in terms of bloodglucose level
cris Reply
It releases hormones from the pancreas insulin and glucagon
why human blood pressure high
amin Reply
fear, anxiety, sickness
why in mothers womb the foetus head is in anus direction?
As it seems the position downside n if we did such position thn soon we got vomiting then how foetus stay in downward position long time?
What is red blood cell
A type of blood cell that is made in the bone marrow and found in the blood. Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Checking the number of red blood cells in the blood is usually part of a complete blood cell (CBC) test. It
red blood cell are the most numerous blood cells.they comprise about 99% of all blood cells red blood cells are non nucleated it has red colour due to present to hemoglobin.
Thanks for the answers

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