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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

Pls give me a brief description of vetebra
Deborah Reply
7 cervical (c1 atlas and c2 axis help the neck rotate) 12 thoracic 5 lumbar 1 sacral and 2 coccyx
Anna
breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, and dinner at 5. sacrum holds 5, coccyx holds 4
Patrick
really there's just one coccyx and sacrum
Patrick
atlas like the Greek God holds the weight of the world on top of him
Patrick
elasticity of the vagina
Mariam Reply
The vagina is an elastic muscular wall
antouman
*organ
antouman
It has I think squamous cuboidal or maybe columnar epithelium designed for secretion, expansion and friction.
Patrick
how can you remember the integumentary system
Naomi Reply
integumentary system is the skin the skin is protection all the body and contain deid cells
Drs
how can you remember the formation of bone?
Maame
the largest organ of the body
Toni
skin is largest organ
Zara
what is the best way to remember the cranial bones or any other bones ?
Savannah
skeletal system?
Savannah
look at the diagram structure and then remember it considering it your own body i memorise like that
Zara
hi guys! do you have to remember ALL the structures of the bones- I mean every single hole, depression or tuberosity?
Kristina
tuborisity
Zara
hey guz i hv to remember Immune antibodies and antigens how? i found it difficult
Zara
well, they are all grouped, aren't they? I mean they all come in series like H1, H2A, H2B and so on. In this case I learn the common part first and then that what's different
Kristina
nd what about IgG , IgE etc.
Zara
the majors
Toni
the thin skin does not have stratum lucidium I believe
Patrick
acronyms
Patrick
if u know the bones, the muscle has part of the name of the bone in it
Patrick
epidermis, I believe epi means on top. dermis in the middle and hypodermis, hypo meaning below. the hypodermis is actually considered not part of the skin or int system
Patrick
blood is a connective tissue which transport oxygen and other nutrients to body
Zara Reply
which type of protein is blood?
Zara
what is blood?
Masthan Reply
blood is a connective tissue which transport oxygen and nutrients to body
Zara
which type of protein is blood?
Zara
haemoglobin
Rashid
and what about its structure i think its Quartenary structure 🤔💭
Zara
yes it is
Rashid
it is globular
Rashid
a vascular structure compose of vessels.
Toni
what is the functions of lymph
moula Reply
what is plasma
Chukwu Reply
A plasma is a hot ionized gas consisting of approximately af a equal number of positive ly charged ionized and negative ly charged electron is called plasma.
Muhammad
what is an atomical position?
Madinatu
military position, body erect where by the body will be up straight..the cephalic and thoracic are straight
Mwita
functions of plasma membrane
Dinyando Reply
what is heparin
Lawrence Reply
why is it anatomy
Tenacious Reply
hello
ASIMENU
hi
asare
hws life
Tenacious
anatomy is the scientific study of the body's structure
Lawrence
great
Lawrence
good night
Kaaya
anatomy is the study of form, physiology is the study of function
Patrick
anatomy is the study of the structure of the body and the physical relationship between it constituent part
Florence
what is heparin
Lawrence
what is the trunk
Tenacious
trunk is define as a person's or animal's body apart from the limp and head
Lawrence
The trunk is part of the axial skeleton
Patrick
hellow friends
mickson
hi friends
mickson
Hi
REEMA
hii
sampath
hi
Inayat
am fine
Ematai
supine or dorsal position is used in clinical setting when patient is placed in position, to examine what?
Dinyando Reply
what do nurses/doctors detect when a patient is placed on dorsal position?
Dinyando
What is coroid process?
kelvin Reply
describe special situation with implications in medical ethics.
kelvin
what is the difference between anatomy and physiology
Dinyando Reply
anatomy is the study of human body . and physiology is the study of the brain
Maryiam
ok
Varun
hi friends
Varun
hi!
kelvin
hello
Maryiam
anatomy is the study of the human body,its form and it physical relations Whiles Physiology is the Study of the functions of the various part of the body
Madinatu
yes
Yeboah
hi friends
mickson
sorry I cant see the full question
Jessica Reply
what was the question?
evelyna
what is spine as a bone marking?
John
similar to a crest but raised more
evelyna
pointed process
evelyna
slender
evelyna
pointed projection i meant
evelyna
what fills the hallow space in the middle of bones? thanks
John
marrow
evelyna
bone marrow
evelyna
hey you gotta read a book
evelyna
i just happen to take this bone chapter in my book last week so i remember
evelyna
yeah i should. how about the correct match of the number of tarsal, metatarsal and phalanges?
John
10, fingers and toes, u know this
Patrick
what is the difference between basal laminal and basal membrane
Nartey Reply
I think they r the same
Patrick

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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