Chapter VI

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Even though common names for body parts may be Germanic in origin (e.g., “knee” and “rib”), the regions of the human body are designated by special terms derived from Latin, Greek, or Greek filtered through Latin. You will notice that all of these labels are adjectives, where there is a noun such as “region” or “area” left understood. That is, “umbilical” is short for “umbilical region,” “crural” is short for “crural region,” etc. Nearly all of the regions have endings in -al or -ar, both of which you learned in this chapter as common adjectival suffixes.

Many of these adjectives are produced simply by dropping an ending from the noun and adding the adjectival suffix. For example, to make “cranium” and “sternum” into adjectives, remove -um and add -al. As you learned in Chapter II, however, some nouns have alternative bases that are revealed in the adjectival form of that word. For instance the adjectival form of "abdomen” is “,” while "cervix" becomes "" and "femur" becomes "." Other examples of this kind from the diagram include “” (from Grk. thorax) and “” (Lat. poples). You will learn more fully how these transformations take place in later chapters when you study the forms of Latin nouns.

As is the case with human bones, anatomical regions get their names for different reasons. “Cubital” means “at the ” and is related to the base cumb- (“to lie down”), which you learned in Chapter II. The Romans used to dine in a recumbent position propped up on their elbow, much like the skeleton you see in the icon near the Know Yourself heading in each chapter (the distance from the fingertip to the elbow also became a unit a measurement, the “”). The Latin was used to describe both the palm of the hand and the tree of the same name; it was speculated that the crossover of the name arose from the similar spreading of that tree’s branches and the fingers of the hand. “Gluteal” comes from the Greek gloutos (“”), a muscle group that is conveniently divided into the gluteus , gluteus , and gluteus (respectively, the “biggest,” “middle,” and “smallest” gluteus muscle).

Finally, observe that some anatomical regions can also be colloquially denoted by terms that are neither Latin nor Greek. The region is known as the “small of the back,” and the region is often simply called the “chest.” Likewise, English used to employ the term “ham” for the popliteal region, but the word is not as common as it once was, and nowadays English speakers are more likely to use the relatively long-winded phrase “back of the knee,” with “ham” surviving only in the compound “hamstring.” Note, however, that these English alternatives are not very serviceable when it comes to making adjectives. For instance, there is no word “backal” or “chestal” to mean “having to do with the back” or “pertaining to the chest,” and “” is a name for a bone in the hand, not “shaped like the back of the knee.” For such purposes, it is the Latin and Greek terms that have precedence.