Etymology of Abdominal Visceral Terms

With particular thanks to Jack Lyons, MD

Platysma - This is the Greek word for a flat plate. It is appropriate for this paper-thin flat muscle of the neck. Remember the duck billed platypus? So named because of its broad flat webbed feet (Pus = Greek for foot).

Jugular - Jugum is Latin for a yoke or collar. Jugulum is a diminutive derived from it meaning the throat or neck in the collar-bone region. This is the part of the body where an ox, for example, carries the yoke. And jugular is the adjective referring to the jugulum. Hence, the jugular vein is the vein of this collar bone region of the neck.

Ansa – In the Latin language, this was the word for a handle, as of a jug, or a loop as might hold on a sandal. In anatomic terminology it is used to signify a loop – as in ansa cervicalis ,the nerve loop in the neck.

Hyoid – Is from the Greek and means “U shaped”. The “h” expresses an aspirate sound that was not written in the original Greek. The “y” represents the Greek letter upsilon, the equivalent of our “U” and the –oid is an old friend indicating “resembling”.

Cricoid – comes from the Greek word krikos” meaning a ring. The cricoid cartilage has a resemblance to a signet ring with its wide posterior portion and narrow anterior part. It is the only cartilage that completely encircles the airway.

Thyroid – the cartilage takes its name from the Greek word thyreos that was used to describe a special kind of warrier’s shield with a deep notch at the top for the chin. While the thyroid cartilage would not be mistaken for a shield, it does have a deep notch at the top that resembles (-oid) this particular shield.

Scalene – Comes from the Greek word scalenos meaning uneven. If you remember your geometry, you will recall that a scalene triangle is one with three unequal sides. If you consider the three scalene muscles together as one muscle group you will see that their three sides are, indeed, unequal.

Carotid – The Greek word karoticos meant stupefying. Apparently they knew that one could be “put to sleep” by pressure over this vessel. The verb garrote (sometimes garotte), to execute someone by strangulation, has the same root.

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