The Nose & Tonsils: Parts & Medical Terms

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  • 0:01 The Nose
  • 0:18 Nas/o
  • 0:55 Nasal Septum
  • 1:43 Mucous, Mucus, & Cilia
  • 3:00 Olfactory Receptors & Tonsils
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will cover a lot of terms associated with the upper respiratory system, mainly the nose, nas/o, nasal septum, cilia, mucous membranes, mucus, olfactory receptors, and tonsils. Then, test yourself with our quiz questions.

The Nose

There's no doubt that people do not have the best sense of smell when compared to many other animals. However, the sense of smell is still really good, regardless of whether we're looking at a dog, bear, or human. We all depend on a nose to help us smell! Let's discuss the nose and many of its associated structures.


Whenever you see nas/o in a word, you should instantly recognize - quite obviously - that it is a combining form that indicates the nose. The nose is that big, or small, protrusion in the middle of your beautiful face that's part of the upper respiratory tract. Um, I think you knew that.

What does the nose do? In brief, a lot. It obviously helps to breathe in air and breathe out waste gases. It serves to warm the air that's being breathed in. It also helps to filter the air that's breathed thanks to nasal hairs.

Nasal Septum

The nose has quite a few structures that make it what it is and help it fulfill its roles that we just went over. Actually, there are a lot of structures, depending on how detailed or microscopic you want to get here. However, this lesson is supposed to focus on the main general parts and portions of the nose, so let's stick to that, shall we?

One very important part of the nose is the nasal septum, a cartilaginous wall that partitions the nose into two equal halves. Remember, the 'sep'tum 'sep'arates the nose into left and right halves as it runs from top to bottom. The root 'sept/o' indicates a septum, which by itself is a word for a wall that separates two cavities or chambers.

Mucous, Mucus, & Cilia

Lining the inside of the nose are hair-covered mucous membranes, specialized tissues that secrete a thick protective and lubricating fluid called mucus; they line the respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts.

Please take special note in the difference of the spelling of the terms mucous and mucus. Mucous, as in mucous membranes, has an 'o.' Mucus, the stuff produced by the mucous membranes, does not. They have the same pronunciation but are spelled differently!

You can remember it by thinking about the fact that mucus 'o'riginates from the muc'o'us membranes. Again, in the nose, mucus is a thick fluid secreted by the nasal mucous membranes that helps to filter, warm, and moisten air as it enters the nose.

Another thing that helps to filter air are cilia, microscopic hair-like projections inside the nostrils that help to filter air and sweep away debris towards the throat where is it then eliminated by coughing. The stuff that's eliminated by coughing or when you clear the throat is called sputum.

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