Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)
Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)

Henry Vandyke Carter, MD
(1831 – 1897)

English physician, surgeon, medical artist, and a pioneer in leprosy and mycetoma studies.  HV Carter was born in Yorkshire in 1831. He was the son of Henry Barlow Carter, a well-known artist and it is possible that he honed his natural talents with his father. His mother picked his middle name after a famous painter, Anthony Van Dyck. This is probably why his name is sometimes shown as Henry Van Dyke Carter, although the most common presentation of his middle name is Vandyke.

Having problems to finance his medical studies, HV Carter trained as an apothecary and later as an anatomical demonstrator at St. George’s Hospital in London, where he met Henry Gray (1872-1861), who was at the time the anatomical lecturer. Having seen the quality of HV Carter’s drawings, Henry Gray teamed with him to produce one of the most popular and longer-lived anatomy books in history: “Gray’s Anatomy”, which was first published in late 1857.  The book itself, about which many papers have been written, was immediately accepted and praised because of the clarity of the text as well as the incredible drawings of Henry Vandyke Carter.

While working on the book’s drawings, HV Carter continued his studies and received his MD in 1856.

In spite of initially being offered a co-authorship of the book, Dr. Carter was relegated to the position of illustrator by Henry Gray and never saw the royalties that the book could have generated for him. For all his work and dedication, Dr. Carter only received a one-time payment of 150 pounds. Dr.  Carter never worked again with Gray, who died of smallpox only a few years later.

Frustrated, Dr. Carter took the exams for the India Medical Service.  In 1858 he joined as an Assistant Surgeon and later became a professor of anatomy and physiology. Even later he served as a Civil Surgeon. During his tenure with the India Medical Service he attained the ranks of Surgeon, Surgeon-Major, Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel, and Brigade-Surgeon.

Dr. Carter dedicated the rest of his life to the study of leprosy, and other ailments typical of India at that time. He held several important offices, including that of Dean of the Medical School of the University of Bombay. In 1890, after his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Physician to the Queen.

Dr. Henry Vandyke Carter died of tuberculosis in 1897.

Personal note: Had history been different, this famous book would have been called “Gray and Carter’s Anatomy” and Dr. Carter never gone to India. His legacy is still seen in the images of the thousands of copies of “Gray’s Anatomy” throughout the world and the many reproductions of his work available on the Internet. We are proud to use some of his images in this blog. The image accompanying this article is a self-portrait of Dr. Carter. Click on the image for a larger depiction. Dr. Miranda

1. “Obituary: Henry Vandyke Carter” Br Med J (1897);1:1256-7
2. “The Anatomist: A True Story of ‘Gray’s Anatomy” Hayes W. (2007) USA: Ballantine
3. “A Glimpse of Our Past: Henry Gray’s Anatomy” Pearce, JMS. J Clin Anat (2009) 22:291–295
4. “Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter: Creators of a famous textbook” Roberts S. J Med Biogr (2000) 8:206–212.
5. “Henry Vandyke Carter and his meritorious works in India” Tappa, DM et al. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol (2011) 77:101-3

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10 medical words that are used incorrectly

1. In the heart, heart valve, and ring valvuloplasty arena, everybody talks about the “anulus”, but most everybody misspells it! The word anulus originates from the Latin term “anulus” meaning “ring”. The proper way of writing it is ANULUS not ANNULUS, with a double "n"

2. The word “process” is English, therefore its plural form should be pronounce as “processes” not with a Latinized inflection as “processiiis”

3. The inflammation of a tendon is “tendonitis”, not “tendinitis”

4. When there is an excess amount of fluid in the pericardium that interferes with cardiac function, that is called a cardiac “tamponade”, not a “tamponaade” (with a French accent) and please don’t call it a “tapenade” (I have heard it), a dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil!

5. The singular form for “criteria” is “criterium”. The following is wrong:  “only one criteria was used to make the decision”. The proper sentence should be "only one criterium was used to make the decision".

6. When using a scope to examine the fundus of the uterus, the procedure is a funduscopic procedure, not fundoscopic! It is more euphonic, I will agree, but not correct!

7. In spinal anatomy, the term “a facet joint” is most commonly used, but the term should be pronounced with the accent on the first syllable as in “fácet”! And just to be a bit more correct, the proper term for a so-called “facet joint” is “zygapophyseal joint”

8. In colon pathology a “diverticulum” is an outpouching of the colon wall. The plural form for “diverticulum” is diverticula.  The terms diverticulae of diverticuli are not correct

9. The terms centigrade and centimeter are derivate from the Latin word “centus”, meaning “one hundred” therefore the “French-like pronunciation of centimeter and centigrade with a French twist, with a nasal initial "a" although cool, is not correct!

10. An finally, my pet peeve: The words “anatomy” and “dissection” are actually synonymous.  Anatomy has a Greek origin. Ana means “apart” and “otomy” is the “process of cutting”: “to cut apart”  Dissection has a Latin origin and means exactly the same! In fact, for many years the term “to anatomize” was used instead of “to dissect”!

Where is the problem? In the pronunciation! “Dissection” should rhyme with “dissent”. For a complete article on this topic, click here.

1. “"The Doctor’s Dyslexicon: 101 pitfalls in medical language" John H. Dirckx The American Journal of Dermatopathology. 27(1):86-88, FEBRUARY 2005 DOI: 10.1097/01.dad.0000148282.96494.0f PMID: 15677983


UPDATED: The term [plexus] comes from the Latin term [plectere] meaning " to twine, or to braid". In anatomy, the term [plexus] refers to a group of structures that are intertwined or form a meshwork.  The plural form is [plexuses], although the Latin plural form [plexi] is also correct. Gabrielle Fallopius used the term to denote "a tangle of nerves"

There are many plexuses described in the human body. Most are formed by nerves, but there are many that are lymphatic or vascular. The best known are the plexuses of nerves formed by the ventral rami of the spinal nerves. These are the cervical plexus, the brachial plexus, the lumbar plexus, and the sacral plexus. The image depicts the brachial plexus. For a larger version, click on the image, and for further information on the cervical and brachial plexuses, click here

Images and links courtesy of:www.bartleby.com

Brachial plexus (www.bartleby.com)

One of my pet peeves...


Say the following words out loud: "DISSECT" and "DISSECTION", then read on...

This is very high up on my list of personal annoyances or pet peeves. It was first brought up to my attention by Aaron Ruhalter, MD in his lectures. I was elated to find an article by Dr John H. Dirckx that took on the topic of the pronunciation of these terms. Dr. Dirckx states that the word should be pronounced with a short "i" as in "dissent"

The words “anatomy” and “dissection” are actually synonymous.  Anatomy has a Greek origin. "Ana" means “apart” and “otomy” is the “process of cutting”: “to cut apart”.

Dissection has a Latin origin and means exactly the same! In fact, for many years the term “to anatomize” was used instead of “ to dissect”! Where is the problem? In the pronunciation! “Dissection” should rhyme with “dissent”, "kissed", and "missed"

An argument could be made that the wrong pronunciation (dai-ssect) is so prevalent that it should be accepted. I disagree, the wrong pronunciation of a word does not make it acceptable.

Further to this argument is a listing of words that include the term (-iss-) which you can read online here. I challenge the audience to find one instance, besides "dissect" and "dissection" where the term is pronounces "ais" instead of "iss".

Other pet peeves:

- Using the word "leg" to mean "lower extremity" as the leg is only a segment of the lower extremity: click here
- Using the term "ramus" instead of "ramus intermedius" for an anatomical variation of the cardiac vasculature: click here
- Using the term "thoratomy" instead of the proper term "thoracotomy": click here

... do not get me started on anatomical and terminological pet peeves...

1. "The Doctor's Dyslexicon: 101 Pitfalls in Medical Language" Dirckx, JH Am J Dermatopath 2005 Vol: 27(1):86. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/01.dad.0000148282.96494.0f
2. The Free Dictionary :https://www.thefreedictionary.com/words-containing-iss

Pemphigus / pemphigoid

The term pemphigus refers to a rare group of autoimmune intraepidermal diseases characterized by blistering, pustules, or vesicles on the skin and mucous membranes. The mode of action of the disease is still not clear, but a key component is acantholysis, the disruption of the normal mechanisms of intercellular adhesion, which leads to intraepidermal blister formation.

There are several types of presentations of this disease such as p. vulgaris, p. foliaceus, p. vegetans, etc. One catastrophic presentation of this disease is ocular cicatricial pemphigoid. The pemphigoid disease progresses creating a symblepharon (adhesive attachments between the conjunctiva covering the sclera and the mucosa covering the posterior aspect of the eyelids. Eventually the disease may extend over the cornea. The accompanying image depicts a case of complete keratinization of the ocular surface in a patient with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid.

Complete keratinization of the ocular surface in patient with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid
Complete keratinization of the ocular surface in patient with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid.
Click on the image for a larger depiction 
The root term pemphig- derives from the Greek [πεμφίγος] meaning a pustule or blister; the suffix -oid  is also Greek [ειδής] meaning “similar to” of “kind of”. Therefore the medical term pemphigoid means “similar to blisters”

There is discussion as to when was this word first used, but it looks as though it was first published in 1763 in the book “Pathologia Methodica Practica, seu de Cognoscendis Morbis” by the French physician and botanist Francois Boissier de la Croix de Sauvages (1706 – 1767)

1. “Revue D’Histoire Des Sciences” Louis Dulieu, 1969
2. "Etymology of Pemphigus" Holubar, K. J Am Acad Dermat 1989:21, 155-156
3. "Pemphigus" Korman, N. J Am Acad Dermat 1988: 18/6  1219-38
4. “Ocular Cicatricial Pemphigoid” Khan R,. McDermott M., Hwang, F. Am Acad Ophthalm Eye Wiki https://eyewiki.aao.org/Ocular_cicatricial_pemphigoid

Image courtesy of EyeWiki


The root term [-brachi-] comes from the Latin word [brachium] meaning "arm". Do not confuse with [-brachy-], which means "small" or "short".

It must be pointed out that there is an important discrepancy between the vernacular use of the term "arm" (as the whole upper extremity) and the anatomical "arm". In human anatomy the "arm" is only the portion of the upper extremity found between the shoulder joint superiorly and the elbow joint inferiorly. In some radiology studies, the arm is referred to as the "upper arm" so as not to include the forearm. This use of the term "upper arm" is incorrect and should be avoided by medical professionals.

Examples of the use of this root term in human anatomy and pathology are:

• Brachialis: A flexor muscle in the upper extremity

• Brachial plexus: A plexus of nerves related to the upper extremity

• Brachioradialis: A flexor muscle that extends from the arm to the forearm

Infraspinatus muscle

The infraspinatus muscle is a thick, triangular muscle and one of the four muscles that forms the rotator cuff. It  is found in the posterior aspect of the scapula, in its infraspinous fossa, inferior to the scapular spine. The muscle is covered on its posterior aspect by a thick fascia, the infraspinatus fascia. This fascia separates the infraspinatus muscle from the teres minor and teres major muscles.

The muscle originates from the infraspinous fossa and from the deep aspect of the infraspinatus fascia. The muscular fibers converge superolaterally for form a tendon that inserts into the the greater tubercle of the head of the humerus. The tendon hugs the glenohumeral joint capsule and is separated from it by a small bursa. Some of the tendon fibers insert into the joint capsule.

The infraspinatus is the main external rotator of the shoulder. When the arm is fixed, it adducts the inferior angle of the scapula.

It receives innervation by way of the suprascapular nerve (C5, C6), which arises from the superior trunk of the brachial plexus.

Infraspinatus muscle - Image modified from the original by Henry VanDyke Carter, MD. Public domain
Infraspinatus muscle.
Click on the image for a larger depiction 
As part of the shoulder’s rotator cuff it helps prevent subluxation of the glenohumeral joint by keeping the head of the humerus in situ. The infraspinatus is one of the 17 muscles that attach to the scapula.

Note: The side image modified from the original by Henry VanDyke Carter, MD. Public domain. Animated image below by Wikimedia Commons - Anatomography [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)]

Anatomography [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)]

1. “Gray’s Anatomy” Henry Gray, 1918
2. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8th Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
3. "Gray's Anatomy" 38th British Ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995
4. “An Illustrated Atlas of the Skeletal Muscles” Bowden, B. 4th Ed. Morton Publishing. 2015