10 strange words for body parts
Did you think that that well-known children’s song: ‘Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes’ had taught you all the body terminology that you would ever need to know? It turns out that you were very wrong! We’ve put together a list of the most obscure words for body parts that you probably didn’t know.
This is the technical word for your ‘big toe’. It stems from Latin and began to be commonly used in the mid-19th century. On the opposite side (of the foot), the little toe is called the minimus.
Although a rare word, purlicue is a term for the space between the forefinger and thumb, originally used in the North of England. It’s thought to derive from the Scots term pirlie, meaning ‘curly’ or ‘twisted’, and is also used as a synonym for curlicue: a term in calligraphy to describe curls in a person’s writing.
A fraenum is a small ligament that restricts movement between body parts. The most obvious example is the fraenum which attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, or the lip to the gum. It comes from the Latin fraenum which meant ‘bridle’ – that same idea of restrained movement. . It is also spelled frenum, and the more common term is frenulum.
This is the hollow that is formed when the two hands are placed together to create a bowl shape. It originates from the Old Norse gaupn.
The uvula is the fleshy extension that hangs at the back of the mouth above the opening of the throat. This is a body part that we share with some other primates; for instance, baboons have small, underdeveloped uvulae. You might wonder whether it actually has any purpose but actually, it has a few! The uvula helps to close the nasopharynx during swallowing, so that no food can enter the nasal passage. It also causes the initiation of the gag reflex if stimulated, and is also used to articulate a range of sounds in speech, such as the guttural R used in French.
This term refers to the vertical groove between the bottom of the nose and the upper lip. Interestingly, it comes from the Latin word philtrum which initially meant ‘love-potion’ or ‘love-charm’ and only started being used in English for the body part in the 17th century. In most mammals, such as dogs, the philtrum is used to carry moisture from the mouth through capillaries to the nose, in order to keep it wet – a wet nose traps odour particles better than a dry one, and so this enhances smell. Of course, this function isn’t necessary in humans.
The technical medical term for what some might refer to in everyday conversation as ‘man boobs’ or ‘moobs’ – or, rather, the condition that causes the swelling of a man’s breast tissue, usually caused by hormone therapy or imbalance.
Stemming from Latin, and from the Greek word kanthos, this word refers to the point in the inner or outer corner of the eye where the upper and lower eyelids meet. It was first used in the mid-17th century.
This is the lowest point of the jawbone, so the most outward pointing part of the chin. It comes from the Greek word for ‘jaw’ with the –ion suffix added to it, and only came into usage in the late 19th century.
The glabella is the smooth part of the forehead, between and directly above the eyebrows. The term comes from the Latin glaber, meaning ‘without hair, smooth, bald’. It is used medically to test for dehydration, as the skin becomes wrinkled and shrivelled when dehydrated.