Anatomical terms

Standard anatomical position

A standard anatomical position describes the relation of body parts to one another as a person is standing with the body erect, the arms at the side, and the face and palms directed forward.

Standard position terms

Right/left

  • Refer to the right and left of the patient.
  • Sometimes dexter and sinister are used instead of right and left, respectively (e.g., oculus dexter, oculus sinister).
Anterior
  • Front of the body
Posterior
  • Back of the body
Ventral
  • Front of the embryo before limb rotation
  • In humans, corresponds to anterior
Dorsal
  • Back of the embryo before limb rotation
  • In humans, corresponds to posterior
Superior (position)
  • Above the reference point
Inferior (position)
  • Below the reference point.
Cranial
Caudal
Proximal
  • Towards the reference point or body trunk
Distal
  • Away from the reference point or body trunk
Superficial
  • Towards the surface of the body
Deep
  • Away from the surface of the body
Medial
  • Towards the midline
Lateral
  • Away from the midline
Prone
  • Horizontal positioning in which the anterior surface faces downwards
Supine
  • Horizontal positioning in which the anterior surface faces upwards

Cranial anatomical terms

Cranial anatomical terms
Rostral (oral)
  • Towards the tip of the nose/mouth from a more posterior point
Occipital (aboral)
Nasal
  • Towards the skull midline
Temporal

Axes and planes

Anatomical axes

Main axes Definition
Longitudinal axis
Sagittal axis
Frontal axis
  • Runs horizontally from left to right

Anatomical planes

Main planes Description
Transverse plane (axial, horizontal)
  • Cross-section that divides the body/structure horizontally into cranial and caudal sections
Frontal plane (coronal)
  • Runs parallel to the forehead
  • Divides the body/structure vertically into anterior and posterior parts
Sagittal plane (median, longitudinal, anteroposterior)

Anatomical terms of motion

General terms
Extension (motion)
  • Movement increasing the angle between two body parts
Flexion
  • Movement decreasing the angle between two body parts
Abduction
  • Movement away from the midline
Adduction
  • Movement towards the midline
External rotation
  • Rotation away from the midline
Internal rotation
  • Rotation towards the midline
Elevation (motion)
  • Movement in a superior direction
Depression (motion)
  • Movement in an inferior direction
Anteversion
Retroversion
Circumduction
  • Circular motion of a limb
Extremity-specific
Dorsiflexion
  • Hand: movement of the hand/fingers toward the dorsal side.
  • Foot: movement of the toes/foot towards the shin
Palmar flexion (volar flexion)
  • Movement of the hand/fingers toward the front of the forearm/hand (palm)
Pronation
  • Hand/forearm: with the arms extended at the sides, rotation so that the palms are facing posteriorly
  • Foot: eversion + dorsiflexion
Supination
  • Hand/forearm: with the arms extended at the sides, rotation so that the palms are facing anteriorly
  • Foot: inversion + plantar flexion
Opposition (motion)
  • Movement and rotation of the thumb's tip towards that of any other finger
Reposition
  • Movement and rotation of the thumb's tip away from that of any other finger

Superior rotation

Inferior rotation
Protraction
Retraction
Eversion
  • Movement of the sole of the foot outward (away from the midline)
Inversion
  • Movement of the sole of the foot inward (toward the midline)
Plantar flexion
  • Movement of the foot/toes downward toward the sole
Spine-specific
Inclination (ventral flexion)
  • Bending the head/torso forward
Reclination (dorsal extension)
  • Bending the head/torso backward
Lateral flexion
  • Bending the head/torso sideward
Rotation
Pelvis-specific
Nutation
Counternutation
Mandible-specific
Lateral excursion
  • Movement of the mandible away from the midline
Medial excursion
  • Movement of the mandible away towards the midline

Supination is when the palm is turned upward, such as when carrying a bowl of soup!

References:[1]