Body part name origins
Ever wonder how that thingamajig on your whatchamacallit got its name? We have lots of weird body parts with lots of weird names. “The ancients tended to name things according to their shape – like some material item everyone was familiar with,” explains Mary Fissell, PhD, a professor in the history of medicine department at Johns Hopkins University and co-editor of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine. Here’s a look at how these common body parts got their names.
The proper name for your tailbone, coccyx was derived from the Greek word for cuckoo – “kokkux” – because the curved shape of the bone resembles the bird’s beak. Scientists consider your tailbone a vestigial structure, something humans no longer needed once we began walking upright; tails help other mammals balance.
The name for this important blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart hails from the Latin and Greek word “arteria,” which means “air holder.” Ancient anatomists thought arteries were air ducts because they didn’t hold any blood after death. Along with veins and capillaries, your body is home to an amazing 100,000 miles’ worth of blood vessels.