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Retracing the Etymology of Terms in Neuroanatomy

Retracing the Etymology of Terms in Neuroanatomy

Clin Anat. 2012 Nov;25(8):1005-14. doi: 10.1002/ca.22053. Epub 2012 Mar 30.


Alessandro Paluzzi  1 Juan Fernandez-MirandaMatthew TorrentiPaul Gardner


  • 1 Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. [email protected]


Researching the origin of the terms that we use to identify neuroanatomical structures is a helpful and fascinating exercise. It can provide neuroscientists with a better insight and understanding of the macroscopic anatomy of the cranium and its contents. It can also help the novice to this discipline to become acquainted with structures whose three dimensional anatomy is often difficult to appreciate. The purpose of this article was to investigate the etymology of some of the terms referring to the macroscopic anatomical structures of the skull and the intracranial cavity. We observed how each name unravels an interesting story, sometimes linked to mythological creatures, other times to the shape of animals or objects and tools of everyday life. We conclude that even without a deep knowledge of the Greek, Latin, or Arabic language, learning who described a particular structure and how they decided to name it, makes the study of neuroanatomy more complete and fulfilling.

Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Mythology
  • Neuroanatomy / history*
  • Terminology as Topic*