Art Anatomy

General Terms for the Muscles

The names of the muscles are not as mysterious as they appear. Often, once you translate them from the Latin, they're self-explanatory.

The following are terms used to describe action, as well as for the muscle names:

Flex - to bend. A muscle that flexes is a flexor.

Extend - to straighten. A muscle that extends is an extensor.

Abduct - to draw away from the midline. A muscle that abducts is an abductor (ab-DUC-tor).

Adduct - to draw toward the midline. A muscle that adducts is an adductor (ad-DUC-tor, although I sometimes say AD-duc-tor to distinguish it from abductor).

Pronate (PRO-nate) - to turn downward (prone), for the forearm. A muscle that pronates is a pronator (PRO-nay-tor).

Supinate (SOO-pin-ate) - to turn upward (supine), for the forearm. A muscle that supinates is a supinator (SOO-pin-ate-er).

(Supine contains the word up. Prone sounds somewhat like down.)

The following terms are used mostly as muscle names:

Levator (leh-VATE-or) - a muscle that lifts, as in elevator.

Depressor - a muscle that lowers.

Erector - a muscle that erects, or uprights.

Tensor - a muscle that tightens.

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Next: Common Muscle Descriptions

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