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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 | Source

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

(click column header to sort results)
#  
View  
Region  
Muscle Name  
Meaning  
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
Finger 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

(click column header to sort results)
#  
View  
Region  
Muscle Name  
Meaning  
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

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