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Xiphoid Process

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Kim from Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada, is studying anatomy and wonders why the lower end of one’s sternum is called the xiphoid process. The word process in this case means projection, and xiphoid comes from the Greek word for sword. Early anatomists likened the sternum to a sword or dagger: the top part is called the manubrium — literally handle— the middle part is the gladiolus — which in Latin means little sword — and the tip is the swordlike projection. The scientific name for a swordfish, by the way, is Xiphias gladius. Many anatomical structures have similarly picturesque names, like tibia, from the Latin for flute, and pelvis from the Greek for wooden bowl or basin. This is part of a complete episode.

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