Posts by Bill Dyche


Anatomy word of the month: gluteus maximus

The most feared of all the Roman emperors? Not really! The gluteus maximus (Latin- largest of the buttock) is the muscle mass making up most of the buttocks. Contrary to popular opinion, we do not sit on these muscles, because they move aside laterally as we sit. Actually, we sit on our pelvic bones protected with […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: duodenum

“Twelve each” in Latin. The duodenum is the first section of the small intestine attached to the outlet of the stomach, the pylorus. Early anatomists measured it as approximately twelve fingers’ breadths long. Duodecim is the number 12 in Latin. Take the Latin number, pass it through old French dozaine into modern English, and you have “dozen”!

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: atlas

The atlas is the first, or top, vertebra of our bony spinal column supporting the “globe” of the head.  In Greek mythology, Atlas was one of the early gods, called the Titans.  Atlas warred against Zeus, King of the Olympian gods, and lost.  For his punishment, Atlas was condemned to bear the weight of the world and heavens […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: coronary

The coronary arteries encircle the heart “like a crown” which is its literal meaning in Latin.  The coronaries supply blood to the heart muscle itself.  Blockage of a branch of a coronary artery causes a “heart attack” in layman’s language.  The same root meaning is found in coronation and coroner.  The latter word originally referred to an official appointed […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: gallbladder

Gall is an Anglo-Saxon word for bile.  The gallbladder stores bile from the liver.  Bile is released into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, when triggered by a fatty meal.  Bile is from the Latin word for the secretion which also means “anger”.  Chole is the Greek word for bile (and wrath) found in medical […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: salpinx

Salpinx means “trumpet” in Greek , that is, a tube-shaped structure with a flared opening. The term is not used alone, but as a root or central meaning in numerous words referring to the uterine tubes. Examples of these terms are: salpingitis (inflammation of), salpingectomy (removal of), hematosalpinx (bleeding within). You may be more familiar […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: pylorus

The “gatekeeper” in Greek. This ring of muscle tissue surrounds the juncture between the stomach and the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum. It functions as a gatekeeper by preventing food from exiting the stomach until it has reached a thick, soup-like consistency. Stomach contents called chyme, “juice” in Greek, then is squirted […]

— Bill Dyche

Anatomy word of the month: cadaver

“To fall”, “to perish” in Latin. Many terms are used for a dead body some more irreverent than others: the decedent, a corpse, a stiff, a cadaver. But only the last word is exclusively used for a body that has been preserved for dissection. Although atlases, highly realistic models, and computer simulations have supplemented even […]

— 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