Muscle Names Have Meaning

Uploaded by kevintpatton on 21.03.2010

Hi, this is Kevin Patton I have another study tip for human anatomy and physiology. This
time it's regarding muscles and how muscle names can be a shortcut to learning the muscles,
where they're at, and what they do. You probably have been given a list by your instructor
as to what muscles you need to be able to identify or maybe it's a list that's In your
lab manual. In any case, once you look at all those muscle names, it looks like a lot
of gibberish, doesn't it? It look like it's written a foreign language. Well, you know
what? It is. Even English versions of these muscle names are derived from Latin. And that's
something that's very useful to know. You might think it's a hindrance, but actually
it's a help. Let's take a look at this group of muscles that are adductor muscles, that
is, they have the word adductor in their name. And, as you can imagine, these are muscles
that do adduction. That is, they adduct, in this case the femur, by bending the hip joint
and bringing the the leg toward the midline, or the median plane, of the body. Now the
first one we have shown there is in green and is called adductor magnus. Adductor means
it's an adductor muscle, of course, and magnus is the Latin word for great or large and you
can see it's a very large muscle. We can't really see the whole thing in this view because
there are a couple other muscles in the way. As a matter of fact, those muscles are adductor
muscles as well. For example, the one highlighted in yellow now is is adductor brevis and brevis
is a Latin word that means brief or short. And, as you can see, it is very short compared
to adductor magnus, isn't it?. When we look at the third one with adductor in its name,
and it's adductor longus and, well, as you can imagine, longus means long. And so it's
longer than brevis and of course magnus is really huge compared to all of them. So we
have three different abductor muscles all very close to one another. And so how do you
tell them apart? Well, their names! One is very big, one is short, and one is long. Now
one weird thing about Latin, you probably already noticed, is the words seem to the
words seem to be backwards in the phrase. Let's take a closer look at that. In English,
when we have a phrase like red wagon, in Latin it would be rendered as wagon red instead,
of course using Latin words, not English words. But this is to show the word order. So there
is a different word order these two languages. And so the modifier, which is the adjective,
in this case red, is modifying a noun. Which in this case is wagon. And so the modifier
comes after the term that it modifies in Latin, which is backwards from English. Let's look
at another example. Big red wagon. In Latin, that would be rendered as wagon red big. And
so the modifiers come after the terms being modified. So let's apply that to one of these
Latin names like, ooh, here's a long one: extensor carpi radialis brevis. That sounds
like a mouthful but it's really kind of a whole phrase or sentence in Latin. An extensor,
of course, is going to extend a part, that is, stretch it out. And carpi means of the
wrist. Remember carpal bones, or the wrist bones. Radialis in this case means pertaining
to, or near, or at the radius bone of the forearm. And then brevis, we already know,
means short. So if we put that all together and translate it into a good English word
order, it means the short wrist stretcher at the radius. Which tells you an awful lot
about that muscle: where to find it and what is does. Now there are some other names of
muscles that are not whole phrases but describe some aspect of the muscle. Like the gracilis
muscle shown here. We see it's a muscle that is a long slender muscle. And that's what
the term gracilis means is slender. So the gracilis muscle is the slender muscle. Another
mnemonic device that you might be able to use is graceful: it's a long slender graceful
muscle. Here's another one with kind of an odd name but, when translated into Latin,
make a lot of sense. The buccinator or BUK-sin-ay-ter muscle is a muscle of the cheek and it's called
the trumpeter muscle. And that's because when you are blowing a trumpet, you really need
to use this muscle to compress the air in your mouth and thus push it to and through
the trumpet. Now where are you gonna learn all this stuff? Maybe you haven't taken a
Latin class, probably haven't taken a Latin class, or two or three. And so, you know,
how are you gonna figure this out? Well, I suggest the Survival Guide for Anatomy and
Physiology. And if you use this little link here, you can type that into your browser
and get to a description of that book. And not only do I explain how to do this but I
give you some tables on how to do the translation. And a free resource that you can download
yourself is a this list of muscle names that you can download from my site at
and so here's the URL for that. So type that your browser and you can download a couple
different versions of my muscle name list that has the translation of the name of at
least some of the major muscles, not ever muscle in the body. That, and other, study
tips are always available for you at my blog, which is found at