When you take it Anatomy and Physiology, you’ll learn about the anatomical position, and also some basic directional terms. These terms might seem complicated at first, yet they are simple to learn, and also I’m going to give you part tips for remembering them.

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The Anatomical Position

First, stop talk around the anatomical position.

The anatomical place is a standing position, v the head facing forward and also the eight to the side. The palms are encountering forward with the fingers extended, and the thumbs room pointing away from the body. The feet room spaced slightly apart with the toes pointing forward.


An easy means to remember this is come imagine that you’re walking come the parking lot, and you see someone spray paint graffiti on her car. You’d most likely scream, “What room you doing?!” through your hands to her side. That’s usually the anatomical position. If you exercise doing the a few times, you’ll never forget it.

It’s crucial for you to remember the anatomical position, because that’s the typical perspective everyone supplies when talking about anatomy and also the directional terms. By making use of a standard allude of reference, you can ensure the everyone will recognize what you’re talking around when you describe the anterior next of the left forearm, for example. Left will be left indigenous the view of the anatomical position, and anterior will be the prior of the body (the side with abdominal muscles) in the anatomical position.

Anatomy and physiology is a course the builds ~ above the material from the vault chapters, therefore if you learn the definition of terms like superior or inferior beforehand in the semester, then you’ll understand intuitively that the exceptional vena cava is going to be over the worse vena cava in the heart.

In addition, you’ll more than likely by utilizing these directional terms regularly when you’re documenting as a nurse or medical care worker, so this is other that deserve to be helpful to your career.

Anatomy Directional Terms

Here’s an essential tip for understanding directional terms: they space usually grouped in pairs of opposites. If you have the right to learn the definition of at the very least one the the directional state in a pair, girlfriend can quickly know the an interpretation of the the contrary directional term.

Here room the directional terms that I’ll be covering:

Superior (cranial) and also inferior (caudal)Anterior (ventral) and also Posterior (dorsal)Distal and proximalSuperficial and deepMedial, lateral, and intermediate

The first pair of directional terms describe the relative position toward or away from the head.


Superior (or cranial) method “toward the head finish of the body” or “higher/above.” You can remember this since the head of a firm is your exceptional at work. He or she hold a “higher” place than you do. Lock are above you in authority.Inferior (or caudal) method just the opposite: “away indigenous the head,” or “lower/under/below.” An inferior product has a “lower” top quality of material contrasted to miscellaneous else.

An anatomy quiz may ask this: The eyes room superior to the mouth: true or false? that’s true. The chest is inferior to the neck, and so on.

The following pair the directional terms relate come the prior or back of the body or structure, loved one to an additional structure.


Anterior (or ventral) means “front of” or “in the front.” Your ab muscles are on the anterior side. Abs=anterior side. The word ventral literally means belly!Posterior (or dorsal) means the the contrary of anterior: “back of” or “behind/on the back.” This is simple to remember since “posterior” is one more word because that your rear end, i m sorry is on your backside.

An anatomy check question might ask, “Your sternum is ________ to her spine.” The price is the your sternum is anterior come the spine. Your intestines space posterior come your abdominal muscles.

Next, we have distal and also proximal, i beg your pardon relate to the attachment point or origin of a structure to your body, such as your arms and legs attaching to her trunk.


Distal method “away from” or “farthest from” the attachment suggest of the structure (hip for legs or shoulders because that arms). You literally “go the distance” v distal.Proximal is the opposite of distal. It means “closest to” or “nearest” the point of beginning of a structure, such together your body in relation to your trunk. Simply think of words “approximately,” and you’ll remember that it method “close to” the insertion point on the trunk.

An easy method to mental this is to organize a pistol in your hand, and also remember this phrase: the pistol is distal come your upper arm.

Your fingers (phalanges) would certainly be distal to your wrist skeletal (carpals). Your femur bone in your upper leg would be proximal to your ankle bones (tarsals).

The next directional pair describes the position of a structure family member to the body’s surface. these are easy to remember due to the fact that they are common words that us all use.


Superficial (or external) way nearest come the surface ar (or outside) the the body. In fact, if you take the letter from words superficial, you have the right to spell words “surface.” If a person is superficial, it way they only care around the exterior appearances (what’s on the surface).Deep (or internal) means the opposite: far from the external of the body. A deep wound is going to pass through far listed below the surface ar of the skin!

The liver is deep come the rib cage. The skin is superficial come the liver. The muscles room deep to the skin, and also the skin is superficial to the kidneys.


Finally, we have actually terms that describe a structure’s place relative to the midline that the body.

Medial means toward the midline of the body. It’s basic to remember due to the fact that medial sounds like “middle.”Lateral means away native the body’s midline. It’s basic to remember due to the fact that a well-known exercise for the shoulders is lateral raises, in which you raise her arms away from the body midline.Intermediate way “between” two structures.

Your knee is intermediate in between your ankles and hip. Her sternum is medial to your humerus, and also your deltoid (shoulder muscle) is lateral to her pectoral (chest) muscles.

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Ready to test her knowledge? take our free (and quick!) directional terms quiz. Also, you could want to watch an ext of our anatomy and physiology lectures on YouTube.