Chapter VIII

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Like its male counterpart, the female reproductive system has features that are named after some sort of resemblance with a shape or object, as with the and (“bigger lips” and “smaller lips”). “” itself originally meant “scabbard” or “sheath.” The opening of the womb is called the cervix, or “” (its fuller name is cervix uteri to differentiate it from other similarly-shaped structures). The are so called because they produce (Lat. ova). Fornix means “” and is used to refer to a curved surface; there are three so-called structures in the vagina, but there is also a fornix in the brain that carries signals from the hippocampus to the hypothalamus. (Fornix gives us the word “fornicate,” which refers to the illicit sexual practices that would take place under archways; the use of the term to describe a feature of the sex organs is coincidental.)

is the proper Latin term for the womb, but the range of terms used in antiquity to describe this organ is perhaps indicative of a general ignorance about gynecological matters. Other names for the womb included alvus (“belly”), venter (“stomach”), vulva, and, in later Latin, matrix (“breeding animal”).

Note also the familiar suffixes you encounter in the diagram. “” means “having to do with the uterus,” and “” means “related to the urethra.” You may also remember seeing -, a Greek suffix meaning “having the shape of,” in various parts of the skeletal system. The sigmoid colon is so termed because it is “shaped like a sigma” (see Chapter XV for more on the Greek alphabet).