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Late Latin anatomia dissection, from Greek anatomē, from anatemnein to dissect, from ana- + temnein to cut


  • 1: a branch of morphology that deals with the structure of organisms
  • 2: a treatise on anatomical science or art
  • 3: the art of separating the parts of an organism in order to ascertain their position, relations, structure, and function : dissection
  • 4obsolete : a body dissected or to be dissected
  • 5: structural makeup especially of an organism or any of its parts
  • 6: a separating or dividing into parts for detailed examination : analysis
  • 7a (1) : skeleton (2) : mummy
b : the human body


Anatomy (from the Ancient Greek ἀνατέμνειν, anatemnein: ana, "separate, apart from", and temnein, "to cut up, cut open") is a branch of biology and medicine that considers the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy (zootomy), and plant anatomy (phytotomy). In some of its facets anatomy is closely related to embryology, comparative anatomy and comparative embryology,[1] through common roots in evolution.

Anatomy is subdivided into gross anatomy (or macroscopic anatomy) and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy is the study of anatomical structures that can, when suitably presented or dissected, be seen by unaided vision with the naked eye. Microscopic anatomy is the study of minute anatomical structures on a microscopic scale. It includes histology (the study of tissues),[1] and cytology (the study of cells). The terms microanatomy and histology are also sometimes used synonymously (in which case the distinction between histology and cell biology isn't strictly made as described here).

The history of anatomy has been characterized, over time, by a continually developing understanding of the functions of organs and structures in the body. Methods have also improved dramatically, advancing from examination of animals through dissection of cadavers (dead human bodies) to technologically complex techniques developed in the 20th century including X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI.

Anatomy should not be confused with anatomical pathology (also called morbid anatomy or histopathology), which is the study of the gross and microscopic appearances of diseased organs. [1]