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Structure of anatomical terms. Noun and its grammatical categories

In this lesson you will:

· Become familiar with structure of anatomical terms.

· Learn grammatical categories of Latin nouns.

· Learn how to determine the stem, the gender and the declension of nouns.


This lesson is divided into the following sections:

I. Anatomical terminology.

II. Structure of anatomical terms.

III. Grammatical categories of a noun.

IV. Gender

V. Number

VI. Case

VII. Dictionary form of a noun.

VIII. Declension

IX. Stem of nouns

X. Exercises.

XI. Vocabulary





Anatomical terminology is a system of terms used in Anatomy. The revision of modern anatomical terminology was initiated in 1887. More than a hundred years later the new Terminologia Anatomica - International Anatomical Terminology was finally accepted by the International Federation of Association of Anatomists (IFAA) in 1997. Anatomical terminology is the foundation of medical terminology and Latin is the international anatomical language. Only Latin is the international basis for creating equivalent terms in other languages. English is not the basis for terminology in other languages.

There is only a very little Latin grammar necessary to dissect anatomical terms. One needs only know about nouns and adjectives, and even then only two cases in the singular and plural. The two cases are Nominative (subjective) and Genitive (possessive).

Noun is a name of a thing: digĭtus (finger), costa (rib) etc.

Adjective is a word expressing a quality of a thing: major (large), longus (long), frontālis (frontal).



The anatomical term is a word used to name a definite unit or structure of a human body. Anatomical terms may consist of one, two, three, four and more words (up to 8).


One-Word Terms

They consist of one noun in singular or plural:

Costa (rib), costae (ribs)

Two-Word Terms

They may consist of:

a. two nouns in singular or plural: corpus vertěbrae (body of vertebra), corpŏra vertebrārum (bodies of vertebrae)

b. a noun with an adjective: vertěbra thoracĭca (thoracic vertebra)


Three-Word Terms

They may consist of:

a. three nouns: ligamentum tubercŭli costae (ligament of tubercle of rib)

b. a noun and two adjectives: processus articulāris superĭor (superior articular process)

c. two nouns and an adjective: sulcus nervi spinālis (furrow of the spinal nerve)

Multiword Terms

They may consist of several nouns and adjectives in singular and plural:

Facĭes temporālis alae minōris ossis sphenoidālis (temporal surface of the smaller wing of the sphenoid bone).





The grammatical categories of a noun are as follows:

1. Gender

2. Number

3. Case

4. Declension


There are three genders in Latin: masculine (masculīnum), feminine (feminīnum) and neuter (neutrum). In contrast to Latin English nouns have only a natural gender, i.e. according to their sex: nouns designating males are masculine (man, boy), nouns designating females are feminine (woman, girl), and nouns designating inanimates are in the neuter gender.

Latin nouns have grammatical gender. Their gender is determined by the ending of Nominative singular.

Thus, nouns ending in -a are feminine: scapŭla (shoulder blade), nouns ending in –us are masculine: muscŭlus (muscle), nouns ending in –um are neuter etc.

The genders of a noun are indicated in the dictionaries with the letters:

· m - masculine
· f - feminine
· n – neuter



In common with English there are two numbers in Latin - singular(singulāris) and plural(plurālis). Number is the grammatical category showing whether we speak of one thing ore more than one. In English the plural is formed by the endings –s or –es. In Latin the ending of the plural varies according to the gender and declension:

Vertěbrae (vertebrae), nervi (nerves), corpŏra (bodies), facĭes (surfaces) etc.


Case is defined as the change of the noun form according to its relation to other words. In modern English we can speak about “common case” and “possessive case”. In contrast to English there are six cases in Latin, but only two cases are used in the anatomical terminology:

English Latin and abbreviation
Nominative Nominatīvus (Nom.)
Genitive Genetīvus (Gen.)

Nominative indicates the subject and answers the questions who, what.

Genitiveindicates the possession and answers the questions whose, of what.

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1238

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