Glossary of Neuroanatomy Terms


Amygdaloid. Greek. amygdale = almond, and eidos = resemblance.

The name given to the almond-shaped nucleus.

Astrocyte. Greek. aston = star, and kytos = vessel or cell.

These cells are of a shape to suggest stars.

Autonomic. Greek. auto = self, and nomos = laws.

Hence that part of the nervous system which is self controlled or autonomous.

Axon. Greek. axon = axis

Adpoted for the name of the axis cylinder.

Brachia Latin. brachium = an arm or arm-like process; plural brachia.

Brain. Anglo-Saxon. braegen = brain; or perhaps related to the Greek brechmos = forehead.

Callosum. Latin. callosus = callous.

Applied to the corpus callosum.

Cerebellum. Latin. diminutive of cerebrum = brain.

Cerebrum. Latin. cerebrum = brain

Cinerea. Latin. cinereus = ashy.

Another term for the gray matter of the nervous system.

Cingulum. Latin. cingulum = a girdle.

Cisterna. Latin. cisterna = a reservoir or cistern.

Commissure. Latin. commissura; from con/com = together, and mittere = to put.

Hence a joining or seam.

Convolution. Latin. con/com = together and volvere = to roll.

Cornu. Latin. cornu = a horn.
Cuneus. Latin. cuneus = a wedge.
Dendrite. Greek. dendrites = pertaining to a tree; from dendron = tree, as in rhododendron.

The term dendrite is used of the processes from a nerve cell.

Diencephalon. Greek. dia/di = through, and encephalon.

Hence the between brain.

Diploe. Greek. diplous = double or folded.

Dura. Latin. durus = hard.
Emissary. Latin. emissarium = a drain; from ex/e = from , and mittein = to send.

Applied as ananatomical term by Santorini in the eighteenth century.

Encephalon. Greek. encephalon = brain; from en = in, and kephale = head.

Ependyma. Greek. epi = upon, and endyma = a garment.
Falx. Latin. falx = a sickle.

The flax of the brain is crescent-shaped.

Fasciculu. Latin. diminutive of fascis = bundle or packet.
Funiculus. Latin diminutive of funsis = a cord.
Ganglion. Greek. ganglion = a swelling.
Geniculate. Latin. geniculare = to bend the knee; from geniculum, diminutive of genu.

Glia. Greek. glia = glue.
Gyrus. Greek. gyros = a circle.
Hippocampus. Greek. hippos = horse, and kampos= sea monster.
Hypophysis. Greek. hypo = under and physis =growth.
Lemniscus. Greek. lemniskos = a band of fillet.

Lobulus. Latin. diminutive of lobus = lobes.

Medulla. Latin. medulla = marrow.
Meninges. Greek. menix = membrane; plural, meninges.
Mesencephalon. Greek. meso = middle, and encephalon (see above).

Myelin. Greek. myelos = marrow (compare to medulla, above), and the ending in.

Neurilemma. Greek. neuron = nerve and lemma = a husk.
Neuroblast. Greek. neuron = nerve and blastos = germ.

Neurodendrite. Greek. neuron = nerve and dendrite (see above).

Neuroglia. Greek. neuron = nerve and glia = glue.

Neuron. Greek. neuron = nerve.
Oblongata. Latin. oblongus = rather long or oblong.

Oligodendroglial. Greek. oligos = scanty, dendron = tree and glia =glue.
Operculum. Latin. operculum = a lid.

A term used in anatomy applied especially to the brain but applicable to any lid.

Pallidus. Latin. pallidus = pale.

Parasympathetic. Greek. para = beside, and sympathetic (see below).

A term coined as a name for part of the autonomic nervous system.

Paravertebral. Greek. para = beside, and Latin. vertebra = a joint in the spine; from vertere = to turn.

The paravertebral ganglia lie alongside the spine.

Pellucidum. Latin. per = through, and lucere = to shine.

Used of the septum pellucidum, through which light can shine.

Pia. Latin. pius =kindly or tender.
Pineal. Latin. pinea = a pine cone.

Presumably named for the shape of this body.

Pituitary. Lain. pituita = mucous secretion.
Plexus. Latin. plexus = something woven, a braid.

Pons. Latin. pons = a bridge.

The same root is familiar to us in pontoon.

Posterolateral. Adjective from Latin. posterus = behind, and latus = side.

This is but one of a number of terms compounded with postero-meaning behind.

Precentral. Latin. prae/pre = in front of, and centrum = center.

Pulvinar. Latin. pulvinar = a pillow.

Not a very good name for this part of the thalamus.

Putamen. Latin. putamen = shell (covering) or a paring.

Quadrigemina. Latin. quadric = combining form of quattour = four, and geminus = twin.

In this form quadrigemina is used sometimes of four, sometimes of eight.

Radicle. Latin radicula, diminutive root of radix = root.

Rhombencephalon. Greek. rhombus = a rhomb or lozenge, and encephalon (see above).

Rubrospinal. Latin. rubber = red, and spina = the spine.
Sella turcica. Latin. sella = saddle and turcica = Turkish.
Solar plexus. Latin. sol = sun, and plexus = something woven.

In this instance the nerves are supposed to radiate like the rays of the sun.

Splenium. Greek. splenion = bandage.
Spongioblast. Greek. spongia = sponge, and blastos = germ.

Spongiocyte. Greek. spongia = sponge, and kytos = vessel or cell.

Stellate. Latin. stella = star.

Hence shaped like a star.

Striatum. Latin. striatus = furrowed.
Subcortical. Latin. sub = under, and cortex = bark or outer covering.

Applied to anything beneath the cortex of the brain.

Substantia. Latin. substantia = material.

Subtemporal. Latin. sub = under, and temporal.

Subtentorial. Latin. sub = under, and tentorium (see below).

Suprasellar. Latin. supra = above, and sella = saddle.
Sympathetic. Greek. syn = with, and pathos = suffering. The "n" or syn is changed to "m" before a labial consonant.

Tapetum. Latin. tapetum = tapestry or carpet.
Tectospinal. Latin. tetcum = roof, and spina = a thorn or spine.
Tectum. Latin. tectum = roof.
Tegmentum. Latin. tegmentum = a cover.
Telencephalon. Greek. telos= end, and encephalon (see above).

Tentorium. Latin. tentorium = a tent.
Thalamencephalon. Greek. thalamos = an inner chamber, and encephalon.

Thalamus. Greek. thalamus = aninner chamber.
Torcular. Latin, torcular = a wine press or storage vat; from torquere = to twist.
Tuber. Latin. tuber = knot or swelling.
Uncinate. Latin. uncinatus = hook-shaped.

Uncus. Latin. uncus = a hook.
Velum. Latin. velum = veil or covering.
Adapted from: Pepper, O.H.P. Medical Etymology, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co., 1949, pp. 45-49.



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This page was last updated 1/31/05