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Major content provider: U.S. National Cancer Institute

Directional Terms

Directional terms describe the positions of structures relative to other structures or locations in the body.

Superior or cranial
toward the head end of the body; upper (example, the hand is part of the superior extremity).

Inferior or caudal
away from the head; lower (example, the foot is part of the inferior extremity).

Anterior or ventral
front (example, the kneecap is located on the anterior side of the leg).

Posterior or dorsal
back (example, the shoulder blades are located on the posterior side of the body).

toward the midline of the body (example, the middle toe is located at the medial side of the foot).

away from the midline of the body (example, the little toe is located at the lateral side of the foot).

toward or nearest the trunk or the point of origin of a part (example, the proximal end of the femur joins with the pelvic bone).

away from or farthest from the trunk or the point or origin of a part (example, the hand is located at the distal end of the forearm).


David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015