Posts by Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: crista galli

The “cock’s comb” is a wedge of bone found on the anterior floor inside of the skull in the midline. The meninges (protective membranes surrounding the brain) are anchored anteriorly at this point. The Latin name for the group of animals including chickens and turkeys is galliformes. Those imaginative ancient anatomists thought that the vertical, […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: retinaculum

A “cord or cable” in Latin. Retinacula are thickenings of tissue underneath your skin that serve to bind down tendons of muscles so they don’t “bowstring” at certain joints, meaning pop up when the joint is flexed or extended. For example, there is a retinaculum on the underside of your wrist that keeps tendons from […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: bursa

A bursa, latin for a little bag or purse, is a closed fluid-filled sack that is typically found in places where a tendon crosses a bone or a muscle comes in contact with bone. It acts as a shock absorber and protection against friction damage to tendons, primarily. They are found in and around our […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: epoophoron

“Upon the egg-bearer” (Greek) refers to a cluster of blind-ending tubules near the ovary of the adult female that are vestiges (remnants) of a male reproductive system, at least, potentially male. Fetuses of both sexes start out with all the basic structures to equip them to develop either a female or male reproductive system including […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: carotid

Feel that pulse in the side of your neck, the one the paramedics on TV shows reach for to check if someone’s heart has stopped? The carotid arteries are the major blood supply to the head. Specifically, branches called internal carotids, one on each side of your neck, are the major blood supply to the […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: tragus

The small flap of skin covered cartilage at the front of your ear canal is named “goat” in Greek! Tragi is the term for hair that grows in the outer ear canal, especially in older men. So, tragus is a fanciful reference to the chin whiskers of a he-goat. Goatee, a narrow pointed beard, is […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: eustachian tube

Most anatomical terms are descriptive in Latin or Greek. However, “Eustachian” doesn’t mean anything. It is a term called an eponym. Traditionally, in anatomy the person who first discovered or described an anatomical structure was honored by having that structure named after them. Bartolommeo Eustachi (Eustachius), a sixteenth century Italian anatomist, described the tube that […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: buccinator

The “trumpeter” in Latin. Our cheek muscles, the buccinator, assist the tongue during chewing movements to hold food between our teeth. Otherwise food would accumulate between our cheek and gums making chewing much less efficient and much more frustrating to accomplish. The buccinator muscles also hold in our cheeks during whistling and forceful blowing through […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: acromion

Feel that bump on the top of your shoulder? This is the highest point of your shoulder and is the exact meaning of the term combining two Greek words meaning “tip, summit or extreme” and “shoulder”. In some individuals their growth hormone continues to overproduce after they have become mature but their long bones have […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: uvula

The little fleshy appendage hanging from the back of your soft palate is called the “little grape” in Latin. As part of the palate the uvula helps seal off your nasal cavity from your throat cavity during swallowing. This works very well, except when you vomit! When the doctor asks you to say “aaah”, he […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: decussation

“To make an X” (Latin). A decussation is an intersection of pathways in the form of an X. Most nerve pathways between our brain and spinal cord cross over at some point.This accounts for why each side of our brain (two cerebral hemispheres) has control over the opposite side of our body. In anatomical language […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: spleen

The name is a direct borrowing from the Greek word splen.  The spleen is located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen behind the stomach. Despite its location, it has nothing to do with digestion, but works in regulating blood components, particularly, culling out aging red blood cells.  At one time this organ was thought […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: jugular

This is the major vein in the neck draining blood most importantly from inside the skull. The Latin jugulummeant “the throat, yoke or collar”. The ancient Greeks referred to this structure as the “sacrificial vein”, likely a reference to cutting the throat of animals sacrificed to their gods.

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: hiatus

The Latin word for “an opening, a gaping mouth”.  The diaphragm, the muscular partition that divides the chest from the abdomen, has three openings.  The aorta, esophagus and inferior vena cava each pass through a hiatus in the diaphragm.  You likely have seen this word before when your favorite TV show took a break for […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: achilles tendon

The Achilles tendon attaches major calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus, to the calcaneous (heel bone). Achilles was a famous Greek warrior whose mother was one of the immortals, but he was not. His mother sought to protect her son by dipping him in the River Styx, which was believed to have magical powers. She […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: torcular herophili

There are two major categories of anatomical terms: those that are simply descriptive as to shape, size, color, function and eponyms, the practice of honoring those who discover or first describe a structure by applying their name to it (e.g. pancreatic duct vs. duct of Wirsung). The problem with eponyms is that they do not […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: the testis

The testis is the male generative organ, producing sperm cells and the male sex hormone, testosterone. Testis is a Latin word for “witness”, as in witnessing to one’s manhood. Did you know that the words testify, testimonial and testament share a common meaning with testis? So, when you testify you are witnessing to the truth. […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: hippocampus

The “sea horse” is a structure buried deep within each hemisphere of the brain. This term is more descriptive of the imagination of anatomists rather than its function. In a cross section of the cerebral hemisphere the hippocampus looks something like its namesake. The hippocampus is important in short-term memory formation. Patients who have damage […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: pes anserinus

Did you know you had a “goose foot” on the inner side of your knees? Those imaginative, ancient anatomists envisioned that the three muscles that come together on the medial surface of the knee looked like the three-toed foot of a goose. Each of the three muscles, in turn, has interesting meanings. Semitendinosus is quite […]

— Bill Dyche