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Anatomical Directional Terminology: Anterior, Posterior and More

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  • 0:05 The Main Directions
  • 0:43 Towards the Front and…
  • 2:01 Above and Below
  • 2:50 Superficial and Deep
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Find out how to properly refer to the location of things at the front and back of a person as well as above or below a certain point on the body by learning the terms anterior, posterior, superior, and inferior.

The Main Directions

When it comes down to the directional terminology in the human body, you say potato and I say potahto, but in the end, we'd still be talking about the same thing.

In order to make your life more difficult, and theirs easier, scientists and medical practitioners have come up with and use more proper or technical words in order to reference the location or direction of something. In this lesson, we'll look into some of the more common and general terms involved in referencing location and direction with respect to our body.

Towards the Front and Towards the Back

Anterior means towards the front of the body.
Anterior Direction Diagram

One of the terms commonly used is the word anterior. You should be aware that it means that something is towards the front of the body or is more towards the front of the body than something else. Conversely, the word posterior means that something is towards the back of the body or more towards the back of the body than another thing when comparing two different structures.

For example, the sternum, our breastbone, is anterior to our spine, and our spine is posterior to our breastbone, since the breastbone is towards the front of our body and the spine is toward the back of our body.

It's easy to remember which term is which. The prefix 'ante' in anterior means 'before,' like when you 'ante' up prior to the start of a poker game or when someone is 'before' you in a lunch line, meaning they're actually in 'front' of you.

Posterior means towards the back of the body.
Posterior Direction Diagram

For the word posterior, the prefix 'post' in posterior, means 'after,' like when the mail is only delivered 'after' you put 'post'-age on your letter, and if you don't use 'post'-age, you'll get your letter delivered right 'back' to you.

So, posterior means towards the 'back,' and anterior means towards the 'front.'

Above and Below

Now, there are more directional terms than just toward the front or the back of something. We also have the term superior, which means towards the head or above something, and the word inferior, which means towards the feet or below something.

It's easy to remember which word refers to what since people who think they're superior to others tend to walk around with their chin up and head held high, looking down upon the inferior swaths of hapless nincompoops 'below' them.

From a more realistic anatomical perspective, one example to help you understand these terms is by realizing that the head is superior to, or above, the shoulders, while the heart is inferior to, or below, the neck.

The shoulders are inferior, or below, the head.
Superior Inferior Directions

Superficial and Deep

A lot of people, regardless of whether they think they're inferior or superior, say beauty is only skin-deep. Furthermore, those who are constantly obsessed with their beauty are oftentimes called superficial.

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