Updated date:

The Latin Roots of Muscles Names

Anterior view of the Human Muscular System showing only some major muscles

Anterior view of the Human Muscular System showing only some major muscles

A lot of students come to me for help because they have troubles learning the names of skeletal muscles of the human muscular system. These muscles names are derived from Latin. At first you would think this as a hindrance but actually most of the time you could use these names as clues to help you learn the shape of the muscles, their locations and what they do. All you need is a dictionary or some guide book to help you translate Latin to English.

Let us look at a group of muscles called Flexor muscles. This is a group of muscle with the word Flexor at the beginning of the muscle name. Flexor is derived from modern Latin Flexus, the past participle of Flectere which means ‘bender’. Let us now pick one of these Flexor muscles, for example Flexor carpi radialis. Carpi is modern Latin meaning ‘wrist’. Radialis is used here to refer to the position of the muscle on radial side the forearm (that is, near or at the radius bone).

The next muscle we should look at is the Flexor carpi ulnaris. Flexor carpi we already know means “wrist bender” and Ulnaris refers to the position at the ulna bone. Therefore, Flexor carpi ulnaris means ‘wrist bender at ulna’ or ‘bender of the wrist at the ulna’.

Let us now apply what we have learned so far on a longer muscle name; Flexor digiti minimi brevis. This is kind of a whole phrase in Latin. Flexor we already know means ‘bender’. In this case Digiti means ‘pointing thing’. Since we point with our fingers this applies to the fingers. Minimi comes from Minimus meaning ‘least or smallest’. Brevis means ‘short’. So from Flexor digiti minimi brevis, we have the following words: bender, finger, smallest, short. In English, this means ‘short smallest finger bender’. This can be adjusted to ‘the short muscle that bends the little finger’.

Names and Meanings of Skeletal Muscle of the Human Body

Here is a list with a selection of major skeletal muscles of the human body including the meaning of their names. This list is arranged by location.


Anterior view

#ViewRegionMuscle NameMeaning

1

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Abductor digiti minimi

Abducts the little finger

2

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Abductor pollicis brevis

Short muscles abducts thumb

3

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Adductor pollicis

Adductor of thumb

4

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Biceps brachii

Two-headed arm muscle

5

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Brachialis

Muscle of the Arm

6

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Brachioradialis

Muscle of the Arm along the Radius bone

7

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Coracobrachialis

Arm crow muscle

8

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Deltoid

Triangle-like

9

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Extensor carpi radialis brevis

Short wrist stretcher at the radius bone

10

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Extensor carpi radialis longus

Long wrist stretcher at the radius bone

11

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Extensor digitorum

Stretches the fingers

12

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Flexor carpi radialis

Wrist bender at the radius bone

13

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Flexor carpi ulnaris

Wrist bender at the ulna bone

14

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Flexor digiti minimi brevis

Short muscle that bends little finger

15

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Flexor digitorum profundus

Deep muscles that bends the fingers

16

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Flexor digitorum superficialis

Muscles towards to surface that bends the fingers

17

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Flexor pollicis brevis

Short muscle that bends the thumb

18

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Lumbrical

Worm-like

19

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Opponens digiti minimi

Muscle that places Small finger in opposite side

20

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Opponens pollicis

Muscle that places Thumb finger in opposite side

21

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Palmaris longus

Long muscle on the flat of the hand

22

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Pronator quadratus

Square muscles that turns palm facing downwards

23

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Pronator teres

Rounded muscle that turns palm facing downwards

24

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Supinator

Muscle that makes hand lay on its back

25

Anterior

Arm, Hand

Triceps brachii

Three-headed arm muscle

26

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Buccinator

Trumpeter muscle (muscle used in blowing)

27

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Corrugator supercilii

Wrinkles above eyelashes

28

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Depressor anguli oris

Muscle that presses corner of the mouth

29

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Depressor labii inferioris

Muscle that presses down lower lip

30

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Frontalis

Frontal belly of occipitofrontalis

31

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Levator anguli oris

Muscle that lifts the corner of mouth

32

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Levator labii superioris

Muscle that lifts the upper lip

33

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Levator palpebrae superioris

Muscle that lifts the upper eyelid

34

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Mentalis

Muscle of the chin

35

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Nasalis

Muscle of the nose

36

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Occipitofrontalis

Muscle of the skull that goes from brow to back of the head

37

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Omohyoid

Muscle of the shoulder and hyoid

38

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Orbicularis oculi

Little circle muscle of the eye

39

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Orbicularis oris

Little circle muscle of the mouth

40

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Sternocleidomastoid

Muscle that connects the Sternum, clavicle and mastoid process

41

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Sternohyoid

Muscle of the chest and hyoid

42

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Temporalis

Time muscle

43

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Zygomaticus major

Greater muscle of the yoke-shaped bone

44

Anterior

Head, Face, Neck

Zygomaticus minor

Lesser muscle of the yoke-shaped bone

45

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Abductor hallucis

Abducts big toe

46

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Adductor brevis

Short adductor

47

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Adductor longus

Long adductor

48

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Biceps femoris

Two-headed thigh muscle

49

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Extensor digitorum longus

Long muscle that stretches the toe

50

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Extensor hallucis longus

Long muscle that stretches the big toe

51

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Flexor digitorum brevis

Short muscles that bends toes

52

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Flexor digitorum Longus

Long muscles that bends the toes

53

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Flexor hallucis brevis

Short muscle that bends the big toe

54

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Gastrocnemius

Belly muscle of leg

55

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Gracilis

Slender muscle

56

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Iliacus

Flank muscle

57

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Ischiocavernosus

Muscle of the hip with hollow space

58

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Levator ani

Muscle that lifts anus

59

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Lumbrical

Worm-like

60

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Peroneus brevis

Short muscle of pointed bone

61

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Peroneus longus

Long muscle of pointed bone

62

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Peroneus tertius

Third muscle of pointed bone

63

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Psoas major

Greater muscle of loin region

64

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Psoas minor

Lesser muscle of loin region

65

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Quadriceps femoris

Four-headed muscle of the femur

66

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Rectus femoris

Straight muscle of the thigh

67

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Sartorius

Tailor muscle

68

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Soleus

Sandal muscle

69

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Tensor fasciae latae

Stretches the side bundle

70

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Tibialis anterior

Muscle in front of the shinbone

71

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Vastus intermedius

Enormous muscle in-between the middle

72

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Vastus lateralis

Enormous muscle on the side

73

Anterior

Leg, Foot

Vastus medialis

Enormous muscle towards the middle

74

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Bulbospongiosus

Spongy bulb

75

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Diaphragm

Across enclosure

76

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

External intercostal

Outward muscle between ribs

77

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

External oblique

Outer slanting muscle

78

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Iliocostalis

Muscle between flank and ribs

79

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Iliopsoas

Psoas major and Iliacus muscles

80

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Internal intercostal

Inner muscle between the ribs

81

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Internal oblique

Slanting belly muscle

82

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Interspinales

Between spines

83

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Latissimus dorsi

Broadest back muscle

84

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Pectoralis major

Greater breast muscle

85

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Pectoralis minor

Lesser breast muscle

86

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Rectus abdominis

Straight belly muscle

87

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Serratus anterior

Anterior saw-like muscle

88

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Sternocleidomastoid

Muscle that connects the Sternum, clavicle and mastoid process

89

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Transversus abdominis

crosswise muscle of the chest

90

Anterior

Trunk, Torso

Trapezius

Four-sided muscle

Posterior view

#ViewRegionMuscle NameMeaning

91

Posterior

Arm, Hand

Brachioradialis

Muscle of the Arm along the Radius bone

92

Posterior

Arm, Hand

Deltoid

Triangle-like

93

Posterior

Arm, Hand

Extensor carpi ulnaris

Wrist stretcher at the ulna bone

94

Posterior

Arm, Hand

Triceps brachii

Three-headed arm muscle

95

Posterior

Head, Face, Neck

Masseter

Chewer muscle

96

Posterior

Head, Face, Neck

Occipitofrontalis

Muscle of the skull that goes from brow to back of the head

97

Posterior

Head, Face, Neck

Splenius capitis

Bandage muscle of the head

98

Posterior

Head, Face, Neck

Splenius cervicis

Bandage muscle of the neck

99

Posterior

Head, Face, Neck

Trapezius

Four-sided muscle

100

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Adductor longus

Long adductor

101

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Adductor magnus

Large adductor

102

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Biceps femoris

Two-headed thigh muscle

103

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Gastrocnemius

Belly muscle of leg

104

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Gluteus maximus

Largest butt muscle

105

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Gluteus medius

Medium butt muscle

106

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Gluteus minimus

Smallest butt muscle

107

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Gracilis

Slender muscle

108

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Peroneus longus

Long muscle of pointed bone

109

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Piriformis

Pear-shaped muscle

110

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Rectus femoris

Straight muscle of the thigh

111

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Semimembranosus

Half skin muscle

112

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Semitendinosus

Half tightly stretch band muscle

113

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Soleus

Sandal muscle

114

Posterior

Leg, Foot

Vastus lateralis

Enormous muscle on the side

115

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Erector spinae

Straightens the spine

116

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

External oblique

Outer slanting muscle

117

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Infraspinatus

Muscle below the spine

118

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Internal oblique

Slanting belly muscle

119

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Latissimus dorsi

Broadest back muscle

120

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Levator scapulae

Muscle that lifts the Scapula

121

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Longissimus capitis

Longest muscle of the head

122

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Quadratus lumborum

Square muscle of the loin

123

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Rhomboid major

Large oblique angled parallelogram-shaped muscle

124

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Rhomboid minor

Lesser oblique angled parallelogram-shaped muscle

125

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Semispinalis capitis

Muscle of half spine of the head

126

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Semispinalis cervicis

Muscle of half spine

127

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Spinalis

Spine muscle

128

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Splenius capitis

Bandage muscle of the head

129

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Subscapularis

Muscle under the spade

130

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Supraspinatus

Muscle above the spine

131

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Teres major

Greater rounded muscle

132

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Teres minor

Lesser rounded muscle

133

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Transversospinalis

Transverse spine muscle

134

Posterior

Trunk, Torso

Trapezius

Four-sided muscle

Learn how to pronounce the names of muscles of the human body