Dictionary of Medical and Anatomical Terminology

By on November 12, 2012

Below is a list of some common terms used in the health professions.

  • Words related to movement and body position or direction are blue
  • Words related to sickness, injury or pathologies are red
  • Words related to anatomical references or regions of the body are green

If you are given a prescription or diagnosis you don’t understand, ask a medical professional to explain it to you, or contact me here.



AbductionMoving away from the midline

Acute One-time incident or short-lasting condition, usually associated with trauma

Adduction Moving toward the midline

Anterior On or toward the front side of the body (same as ventral)

Antebrachial region- forearm

Antecubital space- the divot on the anterior side of the elbow joint

Appendicular skeleton- All bones not contained within the axial skeleton, including the pelvic and shoulder girdles, and upper and lower limbs.

Articulate connect with to form a joint, e.g. the thoracic vertebrae articulate with the ribs

Axillary region- armpit

Axial skeleton- The skeletal structures located along the median plane, including the skull, vertebral column, sternum, ribs, and hyoid bone.


Bilateral On both sides of the body, or moving both sides simultaneously (as in a bench press)

Brachial region- Upper arm


Caudal Toward the feet (same as inferior)

Chronic Long-lasting or recurring condition, usually attributed to over-training and/or improper technique

Circumduction Circular movement about a fixed position

Congenital- A disease or abnormality present from birth

Contralateral On the opposing side, as in right hand and left foot moving together

Cranial Toward the head (same as superior)


Deep– Referring to a structure as more internal than another

Distal Further from the center or reference point

Dorsal Toward the back (same as posterior)

Dorsiflexion Flexing the foot, flexion of the ankle joint


Ecchymosis– Discoloration of the skin caused by blood escaping into the tissues due to ruptured blood vessels

Edema– Swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues brought on by trauma

Effusion- Joint swelling

Eminence- A slight projection from the surface of a bone

Epicondyle- A protuberance above or on the condyle of a long bone.

Extension Movement that increases the joint angle

Eversion Turning the sole of the foot outward, away from the midline


Flexion Movement that decreases the joint angle

Frontal Plane Plane of the body dividing into anterior (front) and posterior (back) portions. Also referred to as the coronal plane




Hematoma Bruise


Inferior Away from the head, or closer to the feet. Also called caudal.

Inversion Turning the sole of the foot inward (toward the midline)

Inflammation- Swelling, a sign of injury or infection

Inguinal region- Groin

Ipsilateral On the same side, as in moving right hand and right foot together

Isolateral– see: Unilateral




Kyphosis– An abnormally pronounced pathological sagittal plane curvature of the thoracic spine. More…


Lateral Further away from the midline of the body

Lateral (external) Rotation- Rotation of a joint away from the midline (fancy name for turnout)

Lumbar region- Lower back


Medial Toward or closer to the midline of the body

Medial (internal) Rotation- Rotation of a joint inward, or toward the midline (turn in)

Median Plane– Longitudinal axis dividing the body into right and left halves






Pathology- Abnormality

Pectoral region– the anterior chest

Plantarflexion Pointing the foot, extension of the ankle joint

Popliteal region- Back of the knee

Posterior On or toward the back side of the body (same as dorsal)

Pronation A rotational movement, in the transverse plane, around a longitudinal axis toward the midline (examples: rolling the inner border of the foot toward the midline, rotating the facing up palm downward toward the feet)

Prone- Lying on the stomach

Proximal Closer to the center


Rotation Movement around a longitudinal axis in the transverse plane.  Can be internal (toward midline) or external (away from midline)


Sacroiliac region- The joint between the vertebrae of the spine and the posterior pelvis (SI joint)

Sagittal Plane Movement that runs parallel to the median plan, dividing the body into right and left portions

Scoliosis– An abnormally pronounced pathological frontal plane curvature of the thoracic spine. More…

Sprain– Trauma or injury to a ligament

Strain– Trauma or injury to a tendon

Superficial– Referring to a structure that is more external, or toward the skin.

Superior Toward the head, or above a reference point

Supination A rotational movement, in the transverse plane, around a longitudinal axis away from the midline (examples: a downturned palm rotating to face upward, rolling the outer border of the foot to turn the sole upward)

Supine- Lying on the back


Tendonopathy- General term indicating an injury to the tendon. Umbrella term including tendonitis (also spelled tendinitis) and tendonosis.

Thoracic region- Posterior chest

Transverse Plane of the body dividing into superior (upper) and inferior (lower) portions. Also referred to as the cross plane

Trauma(tic) Injury resulting from an extraordinary situation like an accident or a fall


Unilateral- On one side of the body, or isolating one side only in movement (as in a dumbbell shoulder press with the right side only). Also referred to a isolateral

Ventral Toward the stomach (same as anterior)




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