Medical Terms and Their Essential Word Parts

(simplified connections of word parts which work together to form practical medical terms that can enhance one's understanding of several fields of medicine)

abdominal cavity (ab DAHM uh nuhl KAHV i tee) (s) (noun), abdominal cavities (pl)
1. The space between the stomach area and the spine which contains a number of crucial organs: The abdominal cavity includes the lower part of the esophagus, the stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, as well as associated tissues and blood and lymphatic vessels all of which are surrounded by the flat band of fibrous tissue below the skin that covers the underlying tissues and separates the different layers of tissue.
2. Etymology: from Latin abdomen, abdominis, "belly" and from medical Latin abdominalis.

The stomach (which is in the abdominal area) is lined with thirty-five million glands that produce about three quarts (2.85 liters) of gastric juices daily. Hydrochloric acid makes up roughly five percent of these juices and, together with other acids and various enzymes, constantly works to digest food particles.

—Compiled from The Body Almanac by Neil McAleer;
Doubleday & Company, Inc.; Garden City, New York; 1985; page 186.
anterior (an TEER ee uhr) (adjective)
1. Situated in the front; such as, on the front or forward part of an organ.
2. Etymology: from Latin, literally, "former", anter, "front" or "before" + -ior, "pertaining to, referring to".

The stomach is located anterior to (in front of) the pancreas.

Anterior is also used with reference to the ventral surface of the body and it is the opposite of posterior.

body cavity (s) (noun), body cavities (pl)
There are two major body cavities: the dorsal cavity and the ventral cavity, which are spaces within the body that contain and protect internal organs.

These two cavities are defined in their alphabetical positions in this unit.

caudal (KAWD'l) (adjective)
1. Toward the lower part of the body.
2. Physically situated at, or near the tail or hind parts; posterior.
3. Etymology: from Modern Latin caudalis, from Latin cauda, "tail of an animal"; caud, "tail" or "lower part of the body" + -al, "referring to, pertaining to". Caudal is the opposite of cephalic.

cephalic (suh FAHL ik) (adjective)
1. Towards the head.
2. Etymology: from Greek kephale then cephal, "head" and -ic, "referring to, pertaining to".

Cephalic is the opposite of caudal.

cranial cavity (KRAY nee uhl KAHV i tee) (s) (noun), cranial cavities (pl)
1. Located within the skull where it surrounds and protects the brain.
2. Etymology: cranial comes from Modern Latin cranium which came from Greek kranion, "skull"; while cavity is from Middle French cavité (13th century), from Late Latin cavitas, "hollowness" which came from Latin cavus, "hollow".
distal (DIS tuhl) (adjective)
Situated farthest from the midline or the beginning of a body structure.

The distal end of the humerus forms part of the elbow or it refers to a body part which is situated away from a point of attachment or origin; for example, the elbow is distal to the shoulder.

Its meaning is the the opposite of proximal.

dorsal (DOHR suhl) (adjective), more dorsal, most dorsal
1. Relating to the back or near the backside of a bodily organ: The dorsal part of the tongue refers to the back of it.

Toward, on, in, or near the back or upper surface or part of an organism.

2. Botany Of or on the outer surface, underside, or back of an organ.
3. Relatively near the back as compared with other structures or parts of the same kind which are closer to the front or belly side: In human anatomy, the dorsalis normally equivalent to the posterior area of the body.
4. Etymology: from Middle French dorsal, from Late Latin dorsalis, corresponding to Latin dorsualis, "of the back" from dorsum, "back", dors, "back of the body" + -al, "pertaining to, referring to".
dorsal cavity (s) (noun), dorsal cavities (pl)
Located along the back of the body and head.

It contains organs of the nervous system that coordinate body functions and is divided into two parts: the cranial cavity and the spinal cavity; both of which are defined in this unit.

inferior (in FEER ee uhr) (adjective)
1. The lowermost, below, or toward the feet; for example, the stomach is located inferior to (below) the diaphragm.

Inferior is the opposite of superior.

2. Etymology: from Latin inferior, "lower", a form of inferus, "below" or "beneath"; from infra, "below".
inguinal (ING gwuh nuhl) (adjective)
Relating to the groin and referring to the entire lower area of the abdomen which is part of the ventral cavity.

The groin is the crease or hollow at the junction (joining place) of the inner part of each thigh with the trunk, together with the adjacent region and often including the external genitals.

lateral (LAT uhr uhl) (adjective)
1. The direction toward or nearer the side and away from the midline.

The lateral ligament of the knee is near the side of the leg.

Lateral is the opposite of medial and bilateral means relating to, or having, two sides.

2. Etymology: from Latin lateralis, "belonging to the side"; from latus, lateris, "side".
medial (MEE dee uhl) (adjective)
1. The direction toward, or nearer, the midline.

The medial ligament of the knee is near the inner surface of the leg.

Medial is the opposite of lateral.

2. Etymology: from Late Latin medialis, "of the middle"; from Latin medius, "middle".
pelvic cavity (PEL vik KAHV i tee) (s) (noun), pelvic cavities (pl)
1. Part of the ventral cavity that is formed by the hip bones and which primarily contains the organs of the reproductive and excretory systems.
2. Etymology: pelvic refers to the "basin-like cavity formed by the bones of the pelvic girdle" from Modern Latin which came from Latin pelvis, "basin, laver" (borrowing of Latin lavare, "to wash").
posterior (poh STIR ee uhr) (adjective)
1. Situated in the back or on the back part of an organ.
2. Etymology: "later," from Latin posterior, "after, later, behind"; comparative of posterus, "coming after, subsequent"; from post, "after"; poster, "back" or "toward the back" + -ior, "a reference to" or "pertaining to".

The pancreas is located posterior to (behind) the stomach and it is also used in reference to the dorsal surface of the body.

Posterior is the opposite of anterior.