Cross-subject integration in medical school

  • Authors: Lavrinenko E.V.1
  • Affiliations:
    1. Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko
  • Issue: Vol 9 (2020): Материалы XVI Международной Бурденковской научной конференции 23-25 апреля 2020 года
  • Pages: 365-366
  • Section: Формирование профессиональной компетенции средствами иностранных языков
  • URL:

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Latin was and is the “root” language of the majority of medical terms. The knowledge of Latin terminology helps the students with learning anatomy, histology and other clinical disciplines. The influence of Latin on the development of medical terminology is undeniable, therefore, medical terminology can’t be mastered without the knowledge of basic Latin. Latin language and basics of medical terminology is a discipline the study and mastering of which is closely interconnected with other disciplines. Learning Latin in medical school though is totally relevant and has its own specifics, as not the language is learned but its terminology. The lack of knowledge of Latin terminology makes it impossible to master anatomy, histology pharmacology and other clinical disciplines which in the long run will create a difficulty in communication between professionals, in understanding patients’ issues and how to help them more efficiently. Therefore, Latin language and basics of medical terminology provides future doctors with an appropriate terminological arsenal, highly beneficial in their career.

Full Text


Latin language in medical school is the language of the specialty, learning of which is an important preparation of the first year medical school students for practical mastery of professional disciplines.Future doctors first of all need to have the knowledge of subject terminology, accurate use of terms [1]. Latin language of terminology is used by medical school students at all stages of training: in normal anatomy classes, biology, histology- during the first year of training and later on at the department of pharmacology, clinical pharmacology and other clinical departments. It is vital to master clinical terminology in order to use it during practical  hours  and  acquiring  knowledge  of  those  disciplines the  lack  of  which  makes  further  doctor’s  career  impossible [2].


The research objective is to study the frequency of using Latin terminology in cross-subject integration and to prove the importance of mastering it.


Contextual analyses of text books-this strategy helped to prove the fact that teaching the new material in Latin goes way ahead with that of the material in anatomy books. Comparison of anatomic atlases-most of atlases use only Latin inscription. Curriculum research brought to the conclusion that the amount of lexical material introduced in Latin classes is in compliance with the requirements of anatomy book curriculum. Already at the first-second lesson there is an introduction to Latin alphabet, phonetics, students acquire correct pronunciation skills and reading Latin terminology. At the second-third lesson- parts of speech such as noun and adjective are learned-their vocabulary forms, grammatical categories and structures of anatomic terms. 15 hours are devoted to the study of human muscles in normal anatomy class but according to the curriculum this learning takes place significantly later than in Latin classes. Cross-subject integration will benefit students in mastering their knowledge of medical terminology. Latin lexis is understood worldwide among doctors. In order to be a professional one has to have a good command of Latin terminology.


Latin terms and terminological phrases used in text books in anatomy and Latin language were analysed and the analysis of these terms was conducted. There was detected the usage of only Latin terms in anatomic atlases to determine whether they are all in compliance with terminology learnt in normal anatomy classes. The research revealed that both, Russian and Latin terminology is interrelated.


Terminological determination of the discipline “Latin language and basics of medical terminology” defines goals and tasks for every single lesson, considering educational issues and practical usage of Latin medical terms. In this connection the volume of grammar elements learnt has been minimized, but the learning of terminological aspects of the course has been expanded [3]. Close attention is paid to anatomical terminology and its structure, formation rules and interpretation. According to the curriculum, teaching the new material in Latin goes way ahead with that of the material in anatomy. This mentioned above strategy is absolutely necessary in order to successfully master normal anatomy discipline.

Training of medical specialists combines comprehensive training of medical terminology based on Latin language which contributes to more intensive mastering of professional terminology. It also contains professional orientation and motivation [4].

Having obtained the first required minimum of knowledge in Latin language, students consciously comprehend and use anatomic terms in normal anatomy. For example, the eighth lesson in Latin language will be devoted to muscles’ terminology, their function, peculiarities of their grammar structure and translation.

By the time when the students begin to study human muscles in normal anatomy class they will have been familiarized with the basics of Latin grammar- they will have acquired the knowledge and skills of making up terms with muscle names according to their function and their interpretation. Such terms-phrases consist of 2 words: the first word used is musculus, abbreviated in the anatomical literature as m, followed by 3rd declension masculine gender noun with the suffix or or er which specifies the muscle function. Categories of number and case of these two nouns always match. For example, musculus buccinator, m. constrictor, m. supinator.

In most cases the names of muscles according to their function are translated into Russian language with the help of present tense participles: diverting muscle, lifting muscle, expanding muscle and so on. Less often-with the help of nouns: flexor, extensor. And even less often-with the help of adjectives-masticatory, bukkal. Some of the muscle names represent transliterates of Latin nouns (supinator, sphincter, pronator) and the word “muscle” in the Russian term is already omitted. As an exception to the rule in terms of muscles according to their function it is necessary to remember the following: “the muscle that suspends duodenum” - musculus suspensorius duodeni. In this term- “suspensorius” is an adjective but according to the general rule it controls genitive case of the anatomical structure name. Variability of translation methods into Russian language is related to style and language factors.

In Latin multi-word term with the name of the muscle according to its function, the noun dependant on the name of the muscles always takes the form of genitive case (determiner) for example, musculus levator palpebrae (G.S.) the muscle that lifts the scapula is literally: the muscle lifter of what? of the eyelid; musculus constrictor pupillae (G.S.) medius - the middle constrictor of (what?) of the pupil. As we can see, in Russian term the name of the anatomical structure may not only take the form of genitive case but also of the accusative case. That is why, while translating it is necessary to remember  about the “Rule of genitive case” in Latin terminology. Adjectives, specifying the size, shape, and muscle location as part of multi-word term are used at the end and should be agreed with the noun “musculus” in case, gender and number.

Having learned all the peculiarities, rules and the structure of anatomical term with the name of the muscles according to their function as well as lexical minimum on the given topic in normal anatomy classes, the students will be able to cope with the task remembering great number of muscle terms of the human faster and easier. In international anatomical nomenclature they are represented by not only simple nouns but also by compound adjectives (m.sternocleidomastoideus - sternocleidomastoid muscle, m. tempomandibularis - temporo-mandibular muscle, m.occipitofrontalis - the occipital-frontal muscle, m. bronchoesophageus - broncho-esophageal muscle), greek adjectives (m. mylohyoideus - maxilo-facial muscle, m.ischiococcygeus - sciatic-coccygeal muscle), adjectives describing muscle shape (m.deltoideus, m.arytenoideus, m.fusiformis, m. rhomboideus), compound terms in plural form (mm. transversospinales - transverse spinous muscle, mm. intercostales externi - external intercostal muscles, mm. levatores costarum breves -short muscles that lift the ribs).

Such an approach in learning the discipline “Latin language and the basics of medical terminology” (presentation of grammatical elements in combination with terminological minimum) depicts the specification of applied use of Latin language at the medical faculties (the study of not so much the language as its terminology) [2]. The structure and lexical-grammatical material of the discipline provide increasing of the efficiency of mastering anatomical, clinical, pharmaceutical terminological word combinations and also confirm cross-subject integration in medical school.


About the authors

Elizaveta V. Lavrinenko

Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3260-5253
SPIN-code: 5791-0583
Russian Federation, Воронеж, ул. Студенческая, 10


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