Etymology of Neuroscience Terms

This table lists the original Greek and Latin meanings of neuroscience words. Most of the words are neuroanatomical terms, but neurological symptoms and disorders are also included.

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Word Meaning
abducens drawing away
ablation carrying away
accumbens lie down
acetylcholine vinegar bile
adrenalin near the kidney
afferent to carry
agnosia no knowledge
alar wing-like
alexia no words
alveus canal
amacrine no long fiber
ambidextrous both right
ambiguus doubtful
amblyopia dull vision
amnesia forgetfulness
ampulla small bottle
amygdala almond
analgesia no pain
aneurysm widening
anesthesia no sensation
ansa urn handle
antitoxin against poison
aphagia no eat
aphasia no speech
aqueduct water canal
arachnoid spider web-like
arbor vitae tree of life
arcuate bow shaped
astigmatism not a point
astrocyte star-like cell
ataxia not orderly
atrophy want of nourishment
auditory to hear
aura breath, breeze
auricle a little ear
autonomic self law
axon axis, axle
basilar base
bouton button
brachium arm
bregma front of the head
calcarine spur-shaped
callosum hard, tough
cannula reed
carotid to put to sleep
cataplexy down stroke, seizure
catatonia down tone
cauda tail
cauda equina horse tail
caudate tail
causalgia burning pain
cenereum ash gray
cephalic head
cerebellum little brain
cerebrum brain
ceruleus blue
cerumen wax
cervical neck
chiasm a crossing
chorea to dance
choroid like a membrane
ciliary eyelash
cinereum ashen-hued
cingulum girdle or belt
circadian about a day
cistern reservior or well
claustrum barrier
coccyx cuckoo
cochlea snail shell
colliculus little hill
conscious aware
conus cone or peg
coma deep sleep
commissure joining together
conjunctivum join
convolution a turn, a folding
convulsion pulling together
cornu horn
corona crown
corpus body
cortex bark, shell, outer layer
cribiform sieve-like
crista crest
cruciate cross-shaped
crus leg
culmen ridge, summit
cuneate wedge
cupula little tub
decussation crossing
dementia away from mind
dendrite tree
dentate notched, having teeth
dura hard
dyskinesia improper motion
edema swelling
efferent carry out (away)
emboliform plug-like
encephalitis brain inflammation
encephalogram brain writing
ependyma upper garment
epilepsy seizure
ethmoid sieve-like
falx sickle
fasciculus little bundle
femoral thigh
filum thread
fimbria fringe
fissure cleft or slit
flocculus tuft of wool
folium leaf
foramen opening
fornix arch
fossa trench, channel
fovea pit, depression
fundus bottom
funiculus little cord
fusiform spindle-shaped
ganglion knot, swelling
genu knee
geniculate bent like a knee
glabrous bald
gland acorn
glia glue
globus pallidus pale ball
glossal tongue
gracile slender
gyrus ring, circle
habenula rein
hallucination to wander in the mind
hemorrhage to burst forth with blood
hippocampus sea horse, sea monster
hormone to excite
hypnosis sleep
hypoglossal under the tongue
hypophysis down growth
hypothalamus under thalamus
incus anvil
infundibulum funnel
insula island
iris rainbow
lamina layer, thin plate
lemniscus woolen band or filet
lens lentil
lenticular shaped like a lens
limbic border, hem, fringe
lingula little tongue
lumbar pertaining to the loins
macula spot
malleus hammer
mater mother
medulla innermost, marrow
melanin black
meninges membrane
meningitis membrane inflammation
microglia small glue
myelin marrow
myopia to shut eye
narcolepsy numbness seizure
narcotic benumbing, deadening
neuron nerve
node knot
nucleus nut
obex barrier
oblongata rather long
occiput back of the head
oculomotor eye movement
olfactory to smell
oligodendrocyte few tree cell
operculus cover, lid
optic for sight
oscilloscope to examine swinging
pallidus pale
paralysis to loosen
paranoia mind beside itself
parietal wall
patella little plate
peduncle stemlike
pellucidum translucent
pia soft
pineal pine cone
pinna wing
piriform pear-shaped
pituitary slime, mucous
placebo to please
plexus a braid
pons bridge
potential power
pterygoid wing-shaped
pulp flesh
pulvinar cushion, pillow, couch
pupil doll, little girl
putamen shell
pyramis pyramid
pyriform pear-shaped
quadrigemina four twins
rabies to rage
ramus branch
raphe seam
rectus straight
restiform rope-like
reticular net-like
rhodopsin rose eye
rostral beak
rubro red
sacral sacred, holy
sagittal arrow
schizophrenia split mind
sclera hard
sella turcica Turkish saddle
semilunar half moon
serotonin blood stretching
septum wall, partition
sinus a hollow
solitarius alone
soma body
somnambulism sleep walk
somniloquism sleep speak (talk)
spine thorn
splenium bandage
stapes stirrup
stellate star
stimulate to goad
striated striped
substantia nigra black substance
sulcus groove, trench, furrow
synapse connection
synesthesia together perception
tapetum carpet
tectum roof
tegmentum covering
temporal time
tentorium tent
thalamus inner chamber
thoracic chest
trabecula little beam
tremor to shake
trigeminal three twins
trochlear pulley
tubercle swelling
uncus hook
vagus wandering
velum covering
ventricle small cavity
vermis worm
vertex top, summit, whirl, whirlpool
vesicle blister, bladder
vitreous glassy


Reprinted from Dr. Eric Chudler’s website.

Dr. Rich Vogel is board-certified intraoperative neurophysiologist working for Safe Passage Neuromonitoring. He started the Neurologiclabs website and blog to connect with others in the field of neuromonitoring.


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