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Terminology 3D-orientation

Orientation terminology for the study of 2-D and 3-D structures in biology

Orientation terms, derived from Greek or Latin, are used to define the position of certain structures with respect to others in organisms and to certain anatomical surfaces in sections. Frequently used terms are regrouped in the tables here below (main source: manuals written by Dr. François van Herp)

Anatomical terms of location and orientation in
of animals and man: indications of the direction
TermExplanation and example
AnteriorDirected towards the front
Towards the front legs of a cat
BilateralOn two sides
Limbs are laid out bilaterally in man
Caudal Directed towards the tail
The stomac is located caudal with respect to the lungs
Cranial Directed towards the head
The heart is located cranial with respect to the liverTD>
Distal In the direction of the edge of the structure
the elbow is distal with respect to the shoulder
Dorsal In the direction of the back
The vertebral column is located dorsal with respect to the and the esophagus and the trachea
Inferior Directed downwards
The Musculus rectus inferior:, that is the low right eye muscle, as opposed to the Musculus rectus superior, the upper right eye muscle
Lateral Directed towards the side
The lungs are located laterally with respect to the sternum
Medial Directed towards the middle line (median)
The eye is located more medial than the ear
Posterior Directed towards behind
The Musculus tibialis posterior is the muscle at the back side of the tibia
Proximal Directed towards the beginning/base of the structure
The elbow is located proximal with respect to the wrist
RadialWith equal parts arranged around a central body
the arms of a sea star are laid out radially; they show radial symmetry
Rostral Directed towards the nose or the mouth
the nose is rostral compared to the occiput
SuperiorDirected upwards
The Musculus rectus superior, the right upper eye muscle, as opposed to the Musculus rectus inferior:, the lower right eye mucle
UnilateralOn one side
The nose is laid out unilaterally
VentralDirected towards the abdomen (belly)
The sternum is located ventral with respect to the heart

Surfaces in sections
Sections in animals/manDivides the organism in
Coronal/frontala dorsal and a vetral part oneach side
Sagittal / lengthleft and right side. (Median section is exactly in the middle)
Transversala caudal and a cranial part
Sections in plants
in wood
Divides the organism in
Cross (transverse)perpendicular to the long axis
Longitudinalalong the long axis
Radialaccording to the rays
Tangentialparallel to the longitudinal section (see illustration)

Boomstam: dwars, radiaal en tangentiaal vlak

last modified: 14 Jul 2017