Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History 

Title page of Anathomia Corporis Humanis by Mondino de Luzzi. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
Title page of "Anathomia Corporis Humanis" by Mondino de Luzzi

Alessandra Giliani

(1307 – 1326

Italian prosector and anatomist. Alessandra Giliani is the first woman to be on record as being an anatomist and prossector. She was born on 1307 in the town of Persiceto in northern Italy.

She was admitted to the University of Bologna circa 1323. Most probably she studied philosophy and the foundations of anatomy and medicine. She studied under Mondino de Luzzi (c.1270 – 1326), one of the most famous teachers at Bologna.

Giliani was the prosector for the dissections performed at the Bolognese “studium” in the Bologna School of Anatomy. She developed a technique (now lost to history) to highlight the vascular tree in a cadaver using fluid dyes which would harden without destroying them. Giliani would later paint these structures using a small brush. This technique allowed the students to see even small veins.

Giliani died at the age of 19 on March 26, 1326, the same year that her teacher Mondino de Luzzi died.  It is said that she was buried in front of the Madonna delle Lettere in the church of San Pietro e Marcellino at the Hospital of Santa Maria del Mareto in Florence by Otto Agenius Lustrulanus, another assistant to Modino de Luzzi.

Some ascribe to Agenius a love interest in Giliani because of the wording of the plaque that is translated as follows:

"In this urn enclosed are the ashes of the body of 
Alessandra Giliani, a maiden of Persiceto. 
Skillful with her brush in anatomical demonstrations 
And a disciple equaled by few, 
Of the most noted physician, Mondino de Luzzi, 
She awaits the resurrection. 
She lived 19 years: She died consumed by her labors 
March 26, in the year of grace 1326. 
Otto Agenius Lustrulanus, by her taking away 
Deprived of his better part, inconsolable for his companion, 
Choice and deservinging of the best from himself, 
Has erected this plaque"

Sir William Osler says of Alessandra Giliani “She died, consumed by her labors, at the early age of nineteen, and her monument is still to be seen”

The teaching of anatomy in the times of Mondino de Luzzi and Alessandra Giliani required the professor to be seated on a high chair or “cathedra” from whence he would read an anatomy book by Galen or another respected author while a prosector or “ostensor” would demonstrate the structures to the student. The professor would not consider coming down from the cathedra to discuss the anatomy shown. This was changed by Andreas Vesalius.

The image in this article is a close up of the title page of Mondino’s “Anothomia Corporis Humani” written in 1316, but published in 1478. Click on the image for a complete depiction of this title page. I would like to think that the individual doing the dissection looking up to the cathedra and Mondino de Luzzi is Alessandra Giliani… we will never know.

The life and death of Alessandra Giliani has been novelized in the fiction book “A Golden Web” by Barbara Quick.

1. “Books of the Body: Anatomical Ritual and Renaissance Learning” Carlino, A. U Chicago Press, 1999 
2. “Encyclopedia of World Scientists” Oakes, EH. Infobase Publishing, 2002 
3. “The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science”Harvey, J; Ogilvie, M. Vol1. Routledge 2000 
4. “The Evolution of Modern Medicine” Osler, W. Yale U Press 1921 
5. “The Mondino Myth” Pilcher, LS. 1906 
Original image courtesy of NLM

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The etymology of this word arises from two Latin words; [cribrum], meaning "a sieve" and [forma], meaning "shape" or "shaped-like". The word [cribriform] means then "sieve-like" or "perforated with a large number or holes".

There are places in the body where the term applies. Examples are the cribriform plate (lamina cribrosa), a sieve-like region found in the superior aspect of the ethmoid bone (see accompanying image) , described in detail by Gabrielle Fallopius.  The olfactory nerves, extensions of the olfactory, bulb pass through the cribriform plate on their way to the olfactory epithelium, an area of the mucosa in the superior aspect of the nose. Another is the cribriform fascia (Hesselbach's fascia) on the anterosuperior aspect of the thigh through which passes the greater saphenous vein and other structures.

Ethmoid bone, superior view, showing the cribriform plate (www.bartleby.com)

Images courtesy of www.bartleby.com
Click on the image for a larger version. For more information on the ethmoid bone click here


From the Latin [vena], meaning "vein". Some early authors postulated that the term derivates from the Latin word [venio] meaning "to come", because the blood in the veins "comes in" to the heart. There are two root terms meaning "vein", the first is the Latin derivated [-ven-], as in the terms venous and intravenous. The second root term is Greek [-phleb-], as in the terms phlebectomy, phlebotomy, and phlebotomist. Peripheral veins have internal one-way valves, while most of the central veins (in the trunk) do not present with valves. Failure of a peripheral venous valve can lead to dilation of the vein, condition called a varix.

Venous: pertaining to a vein
Intravenous: inside or within a vein
Phlebectomy: removal of a vein
Phlebotomy: to open a vein


The term [carotid] is Greek and means "to sleep", "to stupefy", or "to put to sleep". This arises from the observed fact that compression of the large arteries in the neck caused animals to fall asleep (Rufus of Ephesus c.100BC). Andrea Vesalius proposed the name "soporalis arteriae", but the Greek term [carotid] is what we use today. 

The carotid arterial system is bilateral. On the right side, the right common carotid artery arises from the brachiocephalic trunk, while on the left side the left common carotid artery arises from the aortic arch. The common carotid artery divides into an external and an internal carotid artery. The internal carotid artery presents a dilation close to its origin, the carotid sinus, and then heads superiorly to enter the carotid canal of the temporal bone. The internal carotid artery does not give any branches in the neck region and ends providing important branches to the eye and the arterial circle of Willis, which supplies part of the brain.

The external carotid ends giving origin to two arteries, the superficial temporal artery and the maxillary artery. The external carotid artery gives off six named branches:

• Superior thyroid artery
• Lingual artery
Facial  artery
Ascending pharyngeal artery
 Occipital artery
Posterior auricular artery

"The ancient Hellenic and Hippocratic origins of head and brain terminology" Panourias IG, el al Clin Anat 2012 Jul;25(5):548-581
2. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, AH, 1970
Images property of: CAA.Inc. Artist: Dr. E. Miranda
Right carotid artery system - anterior view
Right carotid artery system - anterior view
Click on the image for a larger version

Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen

This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen (1845 - 1923). A German physicist, Professor Roentgen started studying Physics at the University of Ultrech, and receiving his degree from the University of Zurich. Having observed fluorescence on a paper covered with barium platinocyanide close to an active cathode ray. Suspecting the presence of "invisible rays", he devised an experiment to prove this. 

On November 8, 1895 he confirmed his theory and called these invisible-to-the-eye emissions "X"-rays. He also observed the action of these "X"-rays on photographic plates, and that these rays could traverse through the human body, showing the bones. In fact, the first "roentgenogram" was an image of his wife's hand. If you hover over Professor Roentgen's image, you will see an depiction of this historic image. This image marks the beginning of the science of Radiology.

Professor Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen received many awards, medals, and recognitions. In 1901 he was awarded the Physics Nobel Prize.

1. http://www.nobelprize.org

2. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA; 1970
Thanks to Megan Ohse for suggesting this article

Original imagecourtesy ofImages from the History of Medicine at nih.gov

Sulcus / gyrus

These two different terms must be analyzed together. The Latin term [sulcus] means "groove or fissure". Its plural form is [sulci]. There are many anatomical sulci in the body, one of them being the costal sulcus in the ribs.

The second term [gyrus] is also Latin and means "circle or ring", as used in the words gyroscope or gyrations. In its adjective or descriptive form, [gyrus] is used to denote something "bent, curved, or broad-shouldered"1. The plural form is [gyri]. In the case of the brain a gyrus is formed as a mound or an elevation between the "valleys" of the sulci (see image). If you click on the image a secondary image depicting the lateral aspect of the brain will appear.

In the brain there are many sulci, the secondary image shows the lateral or Sylvian sulcus, and the central sulcus or sulcus of Rolando.

Sulcus / gyrus and Brain, lateral view (www.bartleby.com)
In relation to the central sulcus there are two gyri. The anteriorly situated precentral gyrus is considered the primary motor cortex and associated with voluntary motor activity (colored in green in the secondary image).  The postcentral gyrus (colored in blue) is situated posterior to the central sulcus and is the primary sensory cortex, associated with somatic (bodily) conscious sensation. 

"The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, AH, 1970
Initial image by: Albert Kok, courtesy of: Wikipedia.org. Secondary image modified from the original. 
Additional information courtesy of Bartleby.com.
Terms suggested by Sara Mueller.  

Adam Christian Thebesius

This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

Adam Christian Thebesius (1686- 1732). German physician and anatomist, Thebesius studied in the University of Leiden, Netherlands, where he received his doctorate in 1708 with the thesis "De circulo sanguinis in corde" (on the circulation of the blood in the heart). In 1713 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Natural Scientists (Kaiserliche Akademie der Naturforscher), where he adopted the Latin name "Eyryphon". Besides his natural sciences and medical research, Thebesius developed an interest in astrophysics.

Extremely interested in coronary circulation, Thebesius injected dyes and fluids in the coronary arteries, veins, and coronary sinus. Along with Raymond Vieussens (1635-1713) , Thebesius described all these structures. Today his name is attached to the eponymic Thebesian veins (venae cordi minima), and the Thebesian valve guarding the exit of the coronary sinus into the right atrium of the heart. Both these structures were mentioned in his 1708 doctoral thesis

1. “The Role of the Thebesian Vessels in the Circulation of the Heart” Wearn, J.T. J Exp Med. 1928 January 31; 47(2): 293–315
2. The Story Behind the Word. Some Interesting Origins of Medical Terms. Wain,H. 1958. 
3. The Origin of Medical Terms. Skinner, H.A. 1970

Adam Christian Thebesius

Original image courtesy of Images from the History of Medicine at nih.gov