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How are muscles named?

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Quick Answer

Muscles acquire names based on size, shape or location. Names that include "deltoid" indicate triangular-shaped muscles; and those that include "orbicularis" refer to circular-shaped muscles. "Vastus" refers to large muscles; "dorsi" and "dorsal" indicate backside muscles; "infra" suggests lower muscles; and "supra" refers to upper muscles, explains Biology Corner.

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Although the exact number of muscles in the human body is unknown, estimates range from about 650 to 840 named skeletal muscles, notes the Library of Congress. Learning the conventions by which muscles are named makes it easier to memorize and recognize the many muscles of the body.

A major muscle refers to a large or sometimes upper muscle, while a minor muscle means a small or lower one, notes Biology Corner. Muscles are often named based on the area of the body in which they reside. For example, the muscle named "biceps femoris" is a two-headed muscle that connects to the femur bone. Similarly, the muscle named "extensor carpi radialis longus" is lengthy, runs along the radius and carpal bones, and is responsible for extending the fingers. Most of the body's muscles are responsible for some type of joint movement, including flexion, rotation, extension, inversion and exversion, explains Dr. Robert Droual of Modesto Junior College.

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