The History of Anatomical Terminology

The major features of human gross anatomy have standard international names prescribed by a book titled the Terminologia Anatomica (TA). The TA was codified in 1998 by an international body of anatomists, the Federative Committee on Anatomical Terminology, and approved by professional associations of anatomists in more than 50 countries.

About 90% of today's medical terms are formed from just 1,200 Greek and Latin roots. Scientific investigation began in ancient Greece and soon spread to Rome. The Greeks and Romans coined many of the words still used in human anatomy today: uterus, prostate, cerebellum, diaphragm, sacrum, amnion, and others. In the Renaissance, the fast pace of anatomical discovery required a

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20 Part One Organization of the Body profusion of new terms to describe things. Anatomists in different countries began giving different names to the same structures. Adding to the confusion, they often named new structures and diseases in honor of their esteemed teachers and predecessors, giving us such non-descriptive terms as the crypts of Lieberkühn and duct of Santorini. Terms coined from the names of people, called eponyms,18 afford little clue as to what a structure or condition is.

In hopes of resolving this growing confusion, anatomists began meeting as early as 1895 to try to devise a uniform international terminology. After several false starts, anatomists agreed on a list of terms titled the Nomina Anatomica (NA), which rejected all eponyms and gave each structure a unique Latin name to be used worldwide. Even if you were to look at an anatomy atlas in Japanese or Arabic, the illustrations may be labeled with the same Latin terms as in an English-language atlas. The NA served for many decades until recently replaced by the TA, which prescribes both Latin names and accepted English equivalents. The terminology in this book conforms to the TA except where undue confusion would result from abandoning widely used, yet unofficial terms.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

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