Human Anatomy: Describing General Parts of the Body
In order to describe the human body in English, we begin by using general terms. In technical language, the most basic parts of the body are as follows:
Head, Body and Extremities
The body is also called the trunk.
The extremities can be categorized as upper and lower, or superior and inferior. Thus, the technical description of the arms would be superior or upper extremities, while that of the legs would be the inferior or lower extremities.
Medical professionals need to know both technical and common ways of describing parts of the human body. When discussing illnesses and patients with other nurses and doctors, you will often use technical language. However, when talking with an injured patient, it is important to know common and everyday terms for body parts and illnesses.
Basic Anatomy of the Leg
How are parts of the leg related to each other?
To discuss locations of body parts we can use two sets of vocabulary. In everyday English we describe locations and relationships with words such as:
Medical terminology uses a special vocabulary to describe body locations. Provided below are some examples:
Terms of relationship
- A. Anterior - front
- B. Posterior - back
- C. Superior - cranial, cephalic - head end, up
- D. Inferior - caudal - down
- E. Medial - midline
- F. Lateral - to side
Terms of comparison
- G. Proximal - toward trunk
- H. Distal - away from trunk
- I. Palmar - palm of hand
- J. Plantar - sole of foot
- K. Superficial - toward the surface
- L. Deep - toward center
Using everyday English, can you describe the relationships of various parts of the leg? Describe to your partner how the following parts of your leg are connected:
Foot; toes; ankle; knee; calf; thigh; hip; shin
How about other parts?
Skin; bones; joints
Try and use all of the descriptor words listed above!
Example: A) Where is the knee in relationship to the shin?
My knee is above my shin.
B) How is the foot connected to the leg?
The ankle connects the foot to the leg.
Basic Anatomy of the Arm
Using the same descriptors as in exercise 1.1, describe to your partner the relationships of parts of your arms:
Hand; fingers; palm; wrist; forearm; elbow; shoulder