Anatomy & Physiology Workbook For Dummies with Online Practice
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To successfully study anatomy and physiology, you'll want to understand all the Latin and Greek roots, prefixes and suffixes. Also, make sure to get a good foundational knowledge of anatomic cavities, anatomic positions (standard positions when looking at an anatomical drawing), and anatomic planes.

Latin and Greek in anatomy and physiology

Science, especially medicine, is permeated with Latin and Greek terms. Latin names are used for every part of the body; and since the Greeks are the founders of modern medicine, Greek terms are common in medical terminology, as well.

Latin and Greek roots

This table represents some common Latin and Greek roots used in anatomy and physiology:

English Form Meaning Example
angi(o)– vessel angiogram
arthr(o)– joint arthritis
bronch– air passage bronchitis
calc(i)– calcium calcify
card(i)– heart cardiovascular
cili– small hair cilia
corp– body corpus luteum
crani– skull cranium
cut(an)– skin cutaneous
gastr(o)– stomach, belly gastric
gluc(o)– sweet, sugar glucosa
hemat(o)– blood hematology
hist(o)– webbing (tissue) histology
hyster(o)– womb hysterectomy
lig– to bind ligament
osteo– bone osteoblast
pleur– side, rib pleural cavity
pulm(o)– lung pulmonary
ren– kidney renal
squam– scale, flat squamous
thorac– chest thoracic
vasc– vessel vascular

Latin and Greek prefixes and suffixes

This table represents some common Latin and Greek prefixes and suffixes you should know when studying anatomy and physiology:

English Form Meaning Example
a(n)– without, not anaerobic
aut(o)– self autonomic
dys– bad, disordered dysplasia
ec–, ex(o)–, ect– out, outside exoskeleton
end(o)– within, inside, inner endometrium
epi– over, above epidermis
hyper– excessive, high hyperextension
hypo– deficient, below hypothalamus
inter– between, among interoceptor
intrañ within, inside intraocular
iso– equal, same isotope
meta– beside, after metacarpus
ortho– straight, correct orthopedic
para– beside, near, alongside parathyroid
peri– around pericardium
sub– under subcutaneous
trans– across, beyond, through transplant
–blast -to sprout, to make, to bud chloroblast
–clast to break, broken osteoclast
–crine -to release, to secrete endocrine

Anatomic cavities

Your body’s cavities are basically the “holes” that would be left (besides bones and tissues forming the space) if you removed your internal organs. Your body has two main cavities; the dorsal and ventral.

  • Ventral cavity: Extends from just under the chin to the pelvic area, encompassing the thoracic cavity, diaphragm, and abdomino-pelvic cavity

    • Thoracic cavity: Contains the heart and lungs

    • Abdomino-pelvic cavity: Contains the organs of the abdomen and pelvis

  • Dorsal cavity: Contains posterior body organs extending from the cranial cavity into the vertebral canal housing the spinal cord

    • Spinal cavity: Enfolds and protects the spinal cord

    • Cranial cavity: Inside the skull and enclosing the human brain

Anatomic positions

Whenever you see an anatomical drawing, like the one below, you’re looking at the anatomic position. This standard position (standing straight, looking forward, arms at your side, and facing forward) keeps everyone on the same page when you’re talking anatomy and physiology. Keep this list handy of anatomic descriptive terms that appear regularly in anatomy text:

  • Anterior: Front, or toward the front

  • Posterior: Back, or toward the back

  • Dorsal: Back, or toward the back (think of a whale’s dorsal fin)

  • Ventral: Front, or toward the front (think of an air vent)

  • Lateral: On the side, or toward the side

  • Medial/median: Middle, or toward the middle

  • Proximal: Nearer to the point of attachment (such as the armpit)

  • Distal: Farther from the point of attachment

  • Superior: Situated above, or higher than, another body part

  • Inferior: Situated below, or lower than, another body part

  • Peripheral: Away from the center


Anatomic planes

When you’re talking anatomy and physiology, the body is divided into sections, usually three planes. Separating the body into sections, or cuts, let’s you know which body half is being explained. The anatomic planes are:

  • Frontal or coronal: Divides the body into front (anterior) and back (posterior)

  • Sagittal or median: Divides the body lengthwise into right and left sections

  • Transverse or horizontal: Divides the body horizontally into top and bottom sections


About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Erin Odya teaches Anatomy & Physiology at Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, one of Indiana's top schools. She is also the author of Anatomy & Physiology For Dummies.

Pat DuPree taught anatomy/physiology, biology, medical terminology, and environmental science.

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