Word of the Week (142): SINCIPUT (probability 25298), by David Sutton

SINCIPUT is a technical name for the forehead: the plural can be SINCIPUTS or SINCIPITA. It derives from the Latin semi, half, plus caput, head. Compare OCCIPUT, the back of the head, from ob, over, plus caput. Again, the plural of OCCIPUT can be OCCIPUTS or OCCIPITA.

There are a lot of these fancy names for parts of body, most of which, I suspect, we owe to medical science, because obviously you can charge more for diagnosing a contusion of the sinciput than you can for treating a bump on the head. Try a little test: how many of these bits of your anatomy can you confidently locate? TRAGUS, GLABELLA, SCALENUS, FAUCES, HYOID, NUCHA, ORBITA, PALPEBRA, RISORIUS, SAPHENA.


The TRAGUS (plural TRAGI) is the little flap of cartilage that projects over the hole in one's ear. This comes from the Greek tragos, goat, because the way that the hairs that grow there were thought resemble a billy-goat's whiskers.

The GLABELLA (plural GLABELLAE) is the space between the eyebrows, just above the nose. From Latin glaber, bald or smooth; cf. GLABROUS.

The SCALENUS (plural SCALENI) is a muscle in the neck.

The FAUCES are the narrow passage from the mouth to the pharynx, situated between the soft palate and the base of the tongue.

The HYOID is a bone at the base of the tongue (from Greek hy, the letter upsilon, and eidos, form).

The NUCHA is the nape of the neck.

The ORBITA is the eye-socket (from Latin orbita, a wheel-track).

The PALPEBRA (plural PALPEBRAE or PALPEBRAS) is the eyelid.

The RISORIUS (plural RISORII) is a facial muscle situated at the corner of the mouth (from Latin risor, laughter, because these muscles are used when we smile or laugh).

The SAPHENA (plural SAPHENAE or SAPHENAS) is one of the two main superficial veins of the leg.


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