Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Etymology of Bones


Now restricted to the upper jaw, this Latin word was originally used by the Romans to designate both the upper and lower jaws. It is believed that this term comes from the Latin word mala or cheek, or that it is possibly related to the Latin word macerare meaning to chew.


A shortening of the middle English word ìribbeî which came from the Anglo-Saxon word ribb which originally meant a beam or a strip. Therefore the word ribb came to mean the beams or ribs of the chest. This word is related to the word ribbon in the sense of a narrow band.


This name is given to the cartilage of the sternum because of its sword-like shape. It is derived from the Greek words xiphos, a sword, and eidos, or like. The term was used by the early Greek anatomists.


The old Latin term vertebra meant a joint or something to be turned and was derived from the Latin verto meaning to turn. Celsus, in about A.D. 30, used the term to designate any joint as well as a bone of the spine. It was only in later years that the term came to be restricted to a bone of the spine.


The Latin term radius means a ray. It is also related to a Greek term meaning the spokes of a wheel or a rod. The rod-like bone of the forearm was therefore named from its shape which was thought to resemble a spoke of a wheel. The term was introduced by Celsus. The name does not seem to have appeared in English until the 16th century.


Now meaning the lower jaw, this term is derived from the Latin word mandibulum or jaw, which in turn was descriptively derived from the Latin word mando meaning to chew.


The small bones of the fingers and toes were named phalanges because they resembled the Greek line of battle formation called a phalanx. In the phalanx formation, soldiers formed close ranks and files with shields joined and long spears overlapping.


In Latin the plural form scapulae means the shoulder blades. In Greek, ?????means any broad, flat instrument, usually one made of wood like the blade of an oar. The name scapula was adopted by Vesalius. Riolan officially named it in 1640 translating from the Greek “????????” meaning to dig because the bone resembled a digging tool.


Herophilus named this “tail” bone in humans. He thought it resembled the bill of a cuckoo bird. An old name for the coccyx was “whistle-bone” because Riolan, 1620, thought the name was associated with the escape of wind making a noise like the cry of a cuckoo.


In Latin, sacrum means sacred or holy. The sacrum was the last of the bones to decay after death, and that around it, the body would reassemble on the day of resurrection. In Greek it meant illustrious, glorious, mighty or great. It is suggested that the phrase was used by Galen because the sacrum was the greatest or most important bone of the spine. In 1732, Monro suggested it received this name because of its size in relation to the other vertebrae.


Now called the thighbone, this Latin word used to mean the entire thigh. It is derived from the Latin words fero to bear, and fertus to be born. These words all stem from feo meaning to be fruitful or fertile and relate to the functions of the thighs in the bearing of children.


Coming from the Middle English word skulle, which in turn comes from the Anglo-Saxon word scealu meaning a cup, this name was applied to the skull because of its obvious resemblance to a cup or bowl. Similar words appear in other languages such as the Icelandic skal or bowl and the Swedish skull or skoll.


This Latin word designates a buckle, brooch, or clasp. It is derived from the Latin word figo meaning to fasten. The relationship of the fibula to the tibia is that of the needle or pin of a brooch, the fibula being the needle. It was Vesalius who introduced fibula into anatomical terminology.


The knee cap or patella takes its name from its resemblance in shape to a small dish or frying pan. The word patella is a Latin form of patina a broad shallow dish or pan. Related to this term is the Italian word for frying pan which is padella. The term was introduced into medicine by Celsus.


The collar bone was named from its resemblance to an ancient key. The term is derived from the Latin word clavis or key. Aristotle said clavis is an instrument for closing and signifies the bone which closes the thorax.


This is a Latin word meaning the shinbone and also a pipe or flute. Tibia could be a form of tubia, from tuba, a tube or pipe. Primitive musical instruments were made from reeds, horns, and the shin bones of birds. It is believed that the flute was named after the bone from which it was made. The use of the term in medicine is attributed to Celsus.


This Latin word for the wrist is derived from the Greek word karpos or wrist. This in turn may stem from the Greek word karphos meaning splinters or bits of wood. This indicates that in Ancient times people named the small bones of the wrist from their resemblance to bits or splinters of wood. The term is very ancient and was used by Homer.


This term comes from the Latin term pelvis which means a basin. The Latin word stems from the Greek word pella which is a dish or bowl. The term was used in Ancient times and reintroduced into anatomy by Vesalius in 1539 and became popular when Realdus Columbus used it in 1559.

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