The Body

第177課: The Body

The human body is incredibly complex. Even the word “body” in English corresponds to several distinct words in Japanese. Generally, Japanese learners are quickly exposed to the most basic body expressions such as 手 (hand), 顔 (face), etc. early on as part of both Kanji acquisition and development of a basic lexicon. 

Japanese is rich with expressions that utilize body terms, and again, from simply learning how to write, learners are heavily exposed to ‘body’ related words. Though this lesson is placed in the latter part of the Intermediate II course, it is structured in a way that can benefit the needs of various learners. 

From a grammar perspective, there isn’t anything stopping even a beginner who happens to be studying medicine abroad in Japan from learning even the most obscure anatomy jargon. After all, nouns are nouns, and they are still the easiest words to acquire in context. 

What you decide to take from the information provided in this lesson will be based on what your priorities are. Most section which have charts will have the most essential vocabulary that all learners should know contained in them. Any word that is important in the spoken language will be mentioned as such, and any distinctions such as literary/technical/colloquial/dialectical, etc. will be clearly marked as so. If you simply study the charts provided, you will still know all the basic body parts to smoothly carry on a conversation pertaining to the body.  

If you are studying medicine abroad in Japan, it is suggested that you learn as much of the material here as possible. Depending on your grasp of Japanese grammar, the overload of terminology alone will likely far surpass what is even mentioned here. For those that wish to become advanced/near-native speakers, it wouldn’t hurt to remember as much as possible, especially if you’ve never had the opportunity to receive a science education with Japanese instruction.  

“The Body”   「体」の様々な呼び方

■The Human Body

The human body (人体) is called 体 in everyday speech. In medicine/biology, it is also called 身体. In sexual and figurative contexts, it may be referred to as 肉体.

■The Various Kanji for “Body”

However, this spelling is also used just as much as 体 is for からだ. However, if you have had the opportunity to read any literature, you may have also seen other spellings such as 躰 and 體. The character 躰 refers to the whole body (全身). 體 is the original Kanji for “body” as 体 was originally a separate character with the meaning of “thick/rough.” All of these spellings are used prolifically in novels, so it is best to be familiar with them all.

■”Whole Body”
“The whole body,” simply spoken, is 全身, but in everyday speech it is very often 体全体 or 体全身 with 全体・全身 being used as adverbs. 

■体 ≠ Whole Body

At times 体 doesn’t refer to the whole body. Sometimes it only refers to the core of the body. This gives rise to words such as 体当たり (body-slam) and 肢体 (the limbs and torso).  

■”Naked Body”

The technical way to say “the naked body” is 裸体・裸身, but colloquially you may hear the words 裸, 素っ裸, 真(っ)裸, 丸裸, 赤裸々, すっぽんぽん, etc. Language for “the naked body” is quite colorful in Japanese. 

■”Dead Body”

 The technical term for “dead body” is 死体 (antonym: 生体). This may also be spelled as 屍体. The Kanji 屍 specifically means “corpse” and its native reading is しかばね. Other native words exist as well, including 亡骸(なきがら) and  躯・骸(むくろ). More crudely, corpses may also be referred to as 死骸, which is the most common word for the “corpse(s)” of other species. Corpses may also be euphemistically referred to as 仏(さん). 

死体・屍体 and 屍 possess a “matter-of-fact” nuance regarding the state of the life form that is now deceased. You will see it in legal terminology such as 死体遺棄(abandoning a corpse). Therefore, the term (ご)遺体 is used to show respect to the deceased. 遺骸 and 亡骸 are used as respectively alternatives to 骸 and 屍 respectively. 

■身 VS 体

As you have gleamed, 身 is another Kanji which means “body.” Unlike 体, however, it places emphasis on the “flesh” of the body (skin, muscles, and all = 肉身).  Although 体 may possess figurative connotations to the soul (魂), 身 plays a more emphatic role, which can be seen in expressions such as この身のすべて (all of one’s self) , 一身上 (personal), 身代わり (substitute/stand-in), etc. 

※The difference between 身動きをする and 体を動かす is that the former refers not just to moving the body but also do move, and do, freely, and the latter literally only refers to moving the body. 


The word “body” also has the meaning of “physique” in English. In Japanese, words such as 体つき, 体格, 体躯, and 恰幅. 体つき and 体格 are in regard to the body’s overall impression. 体つき is typically used in a subjective sense regarding outward characteristics whereas 体格 is typically used in a objective sense regarding height (身長), weight (体重), etc. 体躯 is a more ceremonious expression, and so it is rare to see it used colloquially. Lastly, 恰幅 refers to a solid build. 

Hair    毛

毛 is the native word for hair on humans as well as the hair on other animals. The technical word for “body hair” is 体毛. Humans, despite not usually being born with hair all over like most other mammals, we are still born with hair. The hair of an infant is called 産毛. Sometimes, this is called “downy hair” in English, which can also simply refer to very thin, soft hair. This is called 和毛・毳(にこげ). Other descriptive words for hair include 巻き毛 (curly hair), 縮れ毛 (frizzy hair), and 白髪 (gray hair). 

The development of hair (発毛) in humans may or may not be controlled by hormones (ホルモン). Hair that forms via sex hormones is called 性毛. All hair, thus, can be categorized by the role sex hormones play in development: male hair (男性毛), female hair (女性毛), ambisexual hair 両性毛, asexual hair (無性毛). Hair that does development during puberty (思春期) due to hormones are also examples of secondary sex traits (第二次性徴). 

Most parts of the body have some form of hair. Their names in Japanese are usually quite straight forward: 

耳毛 (ear hair), 鼻毛 (nose hair), 脇毛 (armpit hair), 胸毛 (chest hair), 腹毛 (abdomen hair), 陰毛・恥毛 (pubic hair), 脛毛 (leg hair), 髭 (mustache), 睫毛 (eyelash), 眉毛 (eyebrow), 柔毛・絨毛 (villus), 埋没毛 (ingrain hair), 指毛 (finger hair), etc. 

Hair follicles are called 毛包 or 毛嚢 in anatomy but 毛穴 in the spoken language.

脱毛 has two meanings. It either refers to hair loss (抜け毛) or hair removal. In the case of hair removal, if the hair is being removed from the root (毛根), then you use 脱毛, but if it the hair is only being removed from the surface, you use 除毛. 

The technical word for shaving is 剃毛. The word for razor is 剃刀, which comes from the native word for “to shave hair,” using the verb 剃る (to shave). 

Parts of the Head 頭部の部位

 Head 額 Forehead 髪(の毛)  Head Hair 口 Mouth
目・眼 Eye(s) 瞼・目蓋 Eyelid(s) 目玉・眼球 Eyeball(s) 歯 Tooth/teeth
  鼻 Nose 唇 Lip(s) 頬 Cheek(s) 顳顬  Temple
  顔  Face 耳  Ear(s) 首  NeckTongue 
 顎・頤 Jaw/chin 頭蓋骨 Skull (頭)脳 Brain 喉 Throat

※Indicating “left” and “right” is done so by using 左 and 右 with their native readings. They are only read with their Sino-Japanese readings in obscure/highly specific anatomical terminology.
※The particle の is optional with its omission being more common in written form. Mentioning both “left and right” parts of a body part may be done with 左右の as in 左右の眉毛 (left and right eyebrows). You may also see them written out individually like in 左目と右目 (left eye and right eye). 

※You may also see the prefix 両- used to mean “both” such as in 両目 (both eyes). You may also see 両の with native vocabulary, which is slightly emphatic. 

■The Head

※頭 is the colloquial word for “head,” but there are also other words. 頭部 is the anatomical word, which literally means “head part.” 頭 also has the readings こうべ and かしら. Both words are archaic in origin, but they are still used in set phrases, and as for the かしら, it remains a commonly used word with the meaning “head person” and in the word 頭文字 (first letter of a word/capital letter). 

■The Forehead

※Forehead may also be colloquially referred to as お凸. In older Japanese, it was called ぬか. The space in between both eyebrows on the forehead is called 眉間.

■The Mouth

※The anatomical word for the mouth is 口腔. The medical pronunciation is こうくう, but the average person would read it as こうこう. Important parts of the mouth include: 扁桃腺 (tonsils), 口蓋(palate: 軟- [soft], 硬- [hard]), 口蓋垂 (uvula), etc. Other important words include, 口紅 (lipstick), 口頭 (oral/vocal), 口語 (spoken language), 口臭 (bad breath),  口論 (quarrel), 口調 (tone), 悪口 (bad talk), etc. 

■The Eye(s)

※The difference between  目 is that 眼 the former has a much broader meaning and can refer to any sort of eye such as the “eye of a typhoon” 台風の目. 目 may also be used as a suffix to show mild degree such as in 大き目 and in ordinal numbers such as in 一つ目. 眼, however, strictly refers to the anatomical eye. 

Important words regarding the eye include: 左目 (left eye), 右目 (right eye), 眼鏡 (glasses), 目つき (look in one’s eyes), 近眼 (nearsightedness), 肉眼 (naked eye), 双眼鏡 (binoculars), 眼差し (gaze), 老眼 (longsightedness), 眼窩 (eye socket), 眼孔 (eye socket), 両眼 (both eyes), 両目 (both eyes [colloquial]), 目やに (eye mucus), 目配せ (winking), 眼科 (ophthalmology), 目元 (eye expression), 目の当たり (before one’s eyes), 流し目 (sidelong glance), 一目 (glance/glimpse), 一目惚れ (love at first sight), etc. 

※眼 may also be read as まなこ in some common expressions such as 血眼 (bloodshot eyes) and 寝ぼけ眼 (sleepy eyes).

※The inner structures of the eye include: 瞳孔 (pupil), 虹彩 (iris), 毛様体 (ciliary body), 脈絡膜 (choroid), 角膜 (cornea), 水晶体 (lens), 網膜 (retina), 隅角 (gonia), 結膜 (conjunctiva), 強膜 (sclera), 黄斑部 (macula), 中心窩 (fovea), 視神経 (optic nerve), 視神経乳頭 (optic disk), etc.

※目頭 (inner canthus/corner of the eye), 目尻・眦 (outer canthus/corner of the eye)

※The colloquial word for “pupil” is 瞳. This Kanji may also often be seen read as め. 

■The Eyelid(s)

※The anatomical word for eyelid is 眼瞼. The spelling 目蓋 demonstrates the literal etymological interpretation of it meaning “lid of the eye(s),” but the spelling 瞼 is actually predominant. Colloquially, 上瞼 = upper eyelid, 下瞼 = lower eyelid.  However, their anatomical words as 左眼瞼 and 右眼瞼 respectively, read entirely with Sino-Japanese readings.

■The Eyeball(s)

※眼球 is the anatomical word for “eyeball,” but it is also commonly used in the spoken language. 

■Hair of the Eye: The Eyelash(es) & Eyebrow(s)

※睫(毛) = “eyelash(es)”. 上睫 = upper eyelashes, 下睫 = lower eyelashes.  まつげ literally means “eye hair.”

※眉(毛)means “eyebrow(s)”. 左眉(毛) = left eyebrow, 右眉(毛) = right eyebrow. The shorter pronunciation まゆ is usually seen in set phrases such as 眉を顰める (to raise one’s eyebrows).  In some dialects it’s called まみえ. まゆげ also literally means “eye hair.” Important vocabulary includes: 眉根 (part of eyebrow closest to nose), 眉尻 (end of an eyebrow), 眉墨 ・黛 (eyebrow pencil), 眉頭 (inner end’s of eyebrows), etc.

※黛 is a rare Kanji that may appear on the 漢検1級.

■The Teeth

※Important words regarding the teeth include: 虫歯・齲歯 (cavity), 入れ歯 (false tooth), 義歯 (artificial tooth), 抜歯 (tooth extraction), 乳歯 (baby tooth), 永久歯 (permanent tooth),歯医者 (dentist), 歯科医 (dentist), 歯科医師 (dental surgeon), 歯科衛生士 (dental hygienist), 歯痛 (toothache), 歯列 [anatomy]・歯並び [colloquial] (row of teeth), 歯形 (teeth molds), 切歯 ([human] incisors), 門歯 (incisor) , 犬歯 (canine), 臼歯 (molar: 小- [pre-], 大・後 [true molar]), 前歯 [front tooth] , 奥歯 [colloquial] (molars/back teeth), 知恵歯・知歯・親知らず (wisdom teeth), 歯茎・齶 (gums/teeth ridge), 歯周病 (gum disease), 歯根 (root of a tooth), 歯石 (tartar), 歯槽 (dental alveolus),  歯磨き (teeth brushing), 歯磨き粉 (toothpaste), 歯ブラシ (toothbrush),  出っ歯 (bucktooth), 歯学 (dentistry), 歯列矯正 (orthodontics), 歯列矯正器 (braces), etc.  

※知恵歯 and 知歯 are both direct translations of the English word “wisdom teeth.” The latter term is more technical. However, 親知らず is still the predominant word.
※お歯医者さん is the proper way of addressing a dentist. 歯科医 would refer to the dentist practice you visit, which then becomes 歯科医院 on the sign of the establishment.  

■The Nose

※The word 鼻 can be used to refer to any nose, including the trunks of elephants. The important parts of the nose include: 鼻毛 (nose hair), 外鼻 (nasus externus) , 鼻孔 (nostril) (外- [external], 内- [internal]), 鼻中隔 (nasal septum),  鼻根 (root of the nose), 鼻背 (dorsum of the nose), 鼻翼 (nasal ala), 鼻尖 (apex of the nose), 鼻骨 (nasal bone), 鼻腔 (nasal cavity), 副鼻腔 (paranasal cavity), 鼻甲介 (nasal concha) (上- [superior], 中- [middle], 下- [inferior] ), 鼻道 (nasal meatus) (上- [superior], 中- [middle], 下- [inferior] ) , 鼻涙管  (nasolacrimal duct), 鼻前庭 (nasal vestibule), 鼻梁 (bridge of the nose), 鼻血 (nosebleed), 鼻水 (nasal mucus),  etc.  

Other important words: 鼻歌 (humming), 鼻先 (tip of the nose), 鼻声 (nasal voice), 小鼻 (nostril [colloquial]) = 鼻の穴,  鼻息 (nasal breathing), 鼻紙・ティッシュ (nose tissue), 目鼻 (eyes and nose), 鼻筋・鼻柱  (bridge of the nose [colloquial]) 
※洟 is an alternative spelling for 鼻 when it refers to sniffles. Snot may also be nose as 鼻くそ or 鼻汁. 
※鼻腔 is read as in science fields びくう but is colloquially read as びこう. The same can be said for 副鼻腔.
※鼻梁 may also be read as はなみね when referring to nose bridges in other animals such as cows or horses.

※The anatomical word for lips is 口唇. Upper lip = 上唇, lower lip =下唇. 脣 is a rare alternative form to 唇.

■The Cheeks

※Various words for 頬 exist. Both ほほ and ほお are accepted standard pronunciations, but other forms such as ほっぺ, ほっぺた, and ほおべた exist in various dialects, the first two also appearing in the speech of Tokyo speakers. In older Japanese, 面 was also used to refer to “cheeks,” and is still seen with this meaning in some expressions such as 横(っ)面 (side of the face) and ツラの皮が厚い (literally: cheek skin is thick; translates to “brazen”).

An important phrase that uses the word 頬 is 頬杖を突く, which means “to rest one’s chin in one’s hands.” 

※Dimple = 靨・笑窪

■The Temple

※こめかみ may also be written as 蟀谷, which is from the modern Chinese word for “temple,” but this is never read with its Sino-Japanese pronunciation. In sports, the “temple” may also be called テンプル.

■The Face

※The face may also be referred to as 顔面, but it is the word顔 that can be used figuratively. Important words include 横顔 (profile), 笑顔 (smiling face), 泣き顔 (crying face), 怖い顔 (grim face), 知らん顔 (feigned ignorance), 顔つき (facial features), 顔立ち (facial looks), 顔色 (complexion), 瓜実顔 (oval face), 顔見知り (acquaintance), 顔合わせ (face-to-face meeting), 真顔 (straight face), 丸顔 (round face), 洗顔 (face washing), 得意顔 (triumphant look), 物知り顔 (all-knowing look), 顔文字 (emoticon), etc.

■The Ear(s)

※The left and right ears are respectively 左耳 and 右耳. Both ears = 両耳. Important parts of the ear to know include: 外耳 (outer ear), 耳介 (auricle), 耳朶・耳垂 (earlobe), 外耳道・外耳孔 (external auditory canal), 中耳 (middle ear), 鼓膜 (eardrum), 鼓室 (tympanic cavity), 槌骨 (malleus), 砧骨 (incus), 鐙骨 (stirrup), 耳管・エウスタキオ管 (Eustachian tube), 耳垢 (earwax [anatomy:じこう, colloquial: みみあか]), 中耳炎 (otitis media), 内耳 (inner ear), 人工内耳 (cochlear implant), 三半規管 (semicircular canal), 前庭 (vestibule), 蝸牛 (cochlea), etc.
Important expressions include: 餃子耳 (cauliflower ear), 耳かき, 初耳 (heard for the first time), 耳元 (close to the ear), 空耳 mishearing (parody), 耳障り (hard on the ears), 耳鳴り (tinnitus), 耳鼻(咽喉)科 (otolaryngology), etc.

※耳朶 is colloquially read as みみたぶ・みみたぼ and as じだ in anatomy in which it is synonymous with the term 耳垂.

※耳くそ is a colloquial variant of 耳垢.

※The word 耳 may also refer to the “edge/crust” of pastries and even the selvages of fabrics.

■The Neck

※The anatomical word for neck is 頸部. Additionally, the “head and neck region” is referred to as 頭頸部. 頸・頚 are alternative Kanji. 首 may also refer to the entire head region, which came about from words regarding decapitation (斬首・馘首) in which the neck is cut and the head thus falls off. This extension of the meaning of 首 is not shared with Chinese. 

※The cape of the neck is called 首筋. 

※The word くび is also seen as an integral part of the name of various body parts in which its meaning is more so akin to “where x attaches”. Ex. 手首 = wrist (where the hand attaches).

Important words in which 首 means “head”: 首脳 (leader), 首領 (head/chief), 船首 (bow of a boat), etc.

■The Tongue

※The tongue may also be called べろ. Important parts of the tongue include: 味蕾 (taste buds), 舌乳頭 (lingual papillae), 舌腱膜 (lingual aponeurosis), 舌小帯 (lingual frenum), 唾液腺 (saliva glands), 舌根 (root of the tongue) etc. 
※”Saliva translates to 唾液 whereas “spit” translates to つば(き)or 涎. In dialects, “spit” can be referred to as つわ(き), ゆだれ,  or even よど. 
※Important expressions include: 舌打ち (smacking lips: literally ‘clicking tongue’), 舌足らず (lisping), 舌触り (feel on the tongue), etc.

■The Jaw

※The alternative Kanji 腭 and  㗁 may appear on the 漢検1級.  The first character literally refers to the flesh at the roots of the teeth “gums,” but this may also be expressed with 齶. All anatomical words with 顎 must be read as がく. So, although 上顎 and 下顎 are read with their native pronunciations colloquially, these same words are read with their Sino-Japanese pronunciations in anatomical terminology. Ex. 下顎運動 (mandibular movement).

頤 may also be read as あご, but it is most often read as おとがい, which is a somewhat common word that specifically refers to the chin/lower jaw.

■The Skull

※The colloquial pronunciation of 頭蓋骨 is ずがいこつ. In anatomy, it is pronounced as とうがいこつ. Anthropologists  may abbreviate it to とうこつ, but this is not seen so much in the medical field as it would then be homophonous to the term 橈骨 (radius [bone]). Skeletonized skulls may be referred to as 髑髏. The most common reading is どくろ, but it may also be read as しゃれこうべ・されこうべ・しゃりこうべ. The first element of the latter three readings comes from the Old Japanese verb [晒・曝]る  (to bleach in the sun), which is seen as [晒・曝]される in Modern Japanese.

■The Brain

※In the spoken language 頭脳 and 脳 are rather interchangeable, but it is the latter that is the anatomical word and the former that can be used to mean “brain” in a figurative sense. The former is also used in words such as 頭脳集団 (think tank). 脳髄 is an antiquated term for “brain.”
※Important parts of the brain include: 大脳 (cerebrum), 小脳 (cerebellum), 中脳 (mesencephalon), 間脳 (diencephalon), 海馬 (hippocampus), 延髄 (medulla oblongata), 橋 (pons) [Sino-Jap.], 脳幹 (brain stem), 脊髄 (spinal cord), 前頭葉 (frontal lobe), 頭頂葉 (parietal lobe), 側頭葉 (temporal lobe), 後頭葉 (occipital lobe), 中心溝 (central sulcus), 大脳溝 (cerebral sulci), 大脳皮質 (cerebral cortex), 脳膜 (meninges), クモ膜 (arachnoid membrane), 硬膜 (dura mater), 脳漿 (grey matter), 髄膜 (meninges), etc.  

■The Throat
※The anatomical word for throat is 咽喉. Important parts of the throat include: 咽頭 (pharynx)), 咽頭蓋 (epiglottis), 喉頭 (larynx), 気管 (trachea). etc. Colloquially, the Adam’s apple is called 喉仏, but the word 喉骨 also exists for it, though slightly old-fashioned. Its anatomic name is 喉頭隆起.

Parts of the Arm 腕の部位

 Arm(s) 前腕 Forearm 上腕 Upper arm 脇(の下) Armpit
 Elbow 手 Hand(s) 手首  Wrist 小指  Pinky
親指  Thumb 中指  Middle finger 薬指  Ring finger 人差し指  Index finger
 二頭筋Biceps(es) 三頭筋  Triceps(es) 掌  Palm 手の甲  Back of hand

■The Arms

※In anatomy, the arm is often referred to as 上肢. 左腕 = left arm, 右腕 = right arm, 両腕 = both arms.
※The word うで covers the length of the arm from the shoulder to the wrist, but in older Japanese it only referred to around the wrist. Back then, the part from the elbow to the wrist was called ただむき. Eventually, the word 前腕 would be coined for “forearm.”

※腕 may also be read as かいな, which is an archaic word referring to the part of the arm from the shoulder to the elbow. This word is still heavily used in sumo. 

※In anatomy, upper limbs are referred to as 上肢.

 ※Important expressions include: 腕力 (arm strength), 腕時計 (wristwatch: literally ‘arm watch’), 腕前 (skill/ability), 腕立て伏せ (push-up), etc.

■The Forearm

※The colloquial word for “upper arm” is 二の腕, but the original form of this phrase is actually 一の腕.

※For “left/right”, you may attach 左(の)and 右の respectively and read with native readings. For “both,” you may attach 両(の). The use of の is optional with colloquial terminology, but it is not used with Sino-Japanese vocabulary. Thus, 左前腕. However, 左 and 右 are still read with their native readings. 

■The Armpit

※腋 is an alternative Kanji for “armpit.” The anatomical word for armpit is 腋下. 脇毛 = armpit hair.

※Alternative Kanji for ひじ are 肱 and 臂. 肘窩 = epitrochlea. 

■The Hand(s)

※左手 = left hand, 右手 = right hand, 両手 = both hands.

■The Finger(s)

※指 refers to both “finger(s)” and “toe(s).” In the medical field, to distinguish the two, 指  is used for “finger(s)” and 趾 is used for “toe(s).” Each finger has medical number designation, medical name, Sino-Japanese name, baby-talk names, and native name (along with dialectal names). Below are the names of each finger with their names listed in this exact order.

・親指・拇 [native], 第一指 [no.], 母指 [med.], 拇指 [Sino-Jpn], お父さん指 [baby-talk]
・人差し指 [native], 第二指 [no.], 示指 [med.], 食指 [Sino-Jpn.], お母さん指 [baby-talk], 塩嘗め指 [dialect]
・中指 [native], 第三指 [no.], 中指(ちゅうし)[med./Sino-Jpn.], お兄さん指 [baby-talk], 高々指/丈高指 [dialect]
・薬指 [native], 第四指 [no.], 薬指・環指 [med.], 無名指 [Sino-Jpn.], お姉さん指 [baby-talk], 薬師指/名無し指/ 紅差し指/ 紅付け指 [dialect]
・小指 [native], 第五指 [no.], 小指(しょうし) [med./Sino-Jpn.], 赤ちゃん指 [baby-talk]

※In all medical, Sino-Japanese, and number forms, 指 is read as し.

※指紋 = fingerprint. 

■The Biceps(es)/Triceps(es)

※To specifically refer to the biceps/triceps of the upper arm, you must insert 上腕 at the start of the word.

■The Palm

※掌 may also be spelled as 手の平.

Parts of the Torso 胴体の部位

 胴体 Torso  腹  Abdomen  Chest 乳房 Breast(s)
 臍Navel 鳩尾Pit of stomach   肋骨 Ribs(s) 鎖骨 Collar bone
 体幹 Trunk 骨盤 Pelvis 背中 Back 腰 Waist
 脊椎Spine 腹筋 Abs 横隔膜 Diaphragm 胸筋 Pectoral
 椎骨 Vertebra(e) 鼠径部 Groin 股間 Crotch  お尻  Buttock(s)

■The Torso

※The torso may also be simply referred to as 胴. The word 胴部 (torso area) also exists.

■The Abdomen

※The native word for abdomen/stomach is 腹. This word is seen in many expressions, but in today’s speech, it is most associated with male speech as お腹 is the predominant word used by women and in standard speech. The anatomical word is 腹部. This word ought to be distinguished from 下腹部, which extends from the groin to the crotch. Other parts of the abdomen include: 心窩部, (epigastric region), 季肋部 (hypochondrium), 側腹部 (lateral region), etc. The “lateral region” may colloquially be referred to as 横腹 or 脇腹.

※Important expressions include: 腹立ち (anger), 腹ぼて (showing signs of being pregnant), 腹這い (lying/crawling on one’s stomach), etc. 

■The Chest

※There are many words involving the chest. The chest area may be referred to anatomy with 胸部. The chest is encased in the 胸郭 (thorax) and is located in the chest cavity 胸腔 ([anatomical reading: きょうくう, [colloquial reading: きょうこう]). The word 胸 can refer to both the “chest” and to “breasts/bosom” of either gender. In certain contexts, it may also refer to any number of organs (idiomatically) located in/near the chest such as the heart, lungs, or even stomach. It may also figuratively refer to one’s heart/mind. Another word for chest/breast is 胸板. There are also the words 胸元 and 胸先, which refer to the general area of the chest. 

Other important words of the chest include: 胸骨 (sternum), 胸毛 (chest hair), 胸声 (chest voice), 胸腺 (thymus), 胸水 (pleural fluid), 胸膜(腔) (pleura), 胸囲 (chest measurement), 胸騒ぎ (premonition), etc.

■The Breasts
※The anatomical word for breast is 乳房(にゅうぼう). In the spoken language, it is read as ちぶさ. As indicated from this word, the basic native word was 乳, read as either ちち or ち. This word can also refer to “milk,” which can be referred to technically with 乳汁. Many words derive from this such as 乳兄弟 (foster sibling) 乳飲み子 (suckling child). The kid word for “breast” also happens to be おちち. In slang, the words おっぱい, ぱいおつ, etc. exist, but these words tend to have sexual connotations. 

■The Navel

※The navel is where the umbilical cord detaches. The umbilical cord is called 臍帯 in medicine but as 臍の緒 in the spoken language. The alternative pronunciation of ほぞ also exists for 臍. In anatomy, 臍 is solely read as さい. Thus, 臍部 = “navel region.”  

※The word 鳩尾 has a fascinating etymology. The word derives from 水落ち (where water falls [after drinking]). Its anatomical name is 心窩 mentioned above, but 鳩尾 may also be read as きゅうび to be more technical. It also goes by the colloquial name 水月. 

■The Ribs

※肋骨 may alternatively be read as あばらぼね, but this word has become antiquated. 

■The Collar Bone

※鎖骨 is the “collar bone” but the collar of one’s clothing is referred to as 胸倉. 

■The Back

※The difference between 背 and 背中 is that the former refers to the full back(side) whereas the latter literally refers to the middle of the back. The former may also be used in the sense of “height/stature.”

※背 has two readings: せ and せい. The former reading is associated with “the back” whereas the latter reading means “stature.” Compare 背伸び (stretching one’s back) and 背格好 (height/size). The latter word actually can be heard pronounced as せかっこう, but せいかっこう is the traditionally correct reading. 

■The Waist

腰 means “hips/waist but also includes the lower back (lumbar region). When referring to one’s waist as in measurement, the words 胴回り/ウエスト are used. 

■The Spine
※(脊)椎骨 = “vertebra(e),” 脊柱 = “spinal column.” 

■The Groin

鼠径部 really translates to “the area of the groin,” and so 鼠径 may be used in isolation. The second character is technically the wrong Kanji. The traditional spelling is 鼠蹊. Colloquially, there is no single word for “groin.” Instead, it is referred to as 腿の付け根 (root of the thigh).  

The Privates 陰部の部位

It would be insufficient in covering the lower abdomen (下腹部) without covering the words related to one’s private area. As with every language, there are many words for the same areas with various ranges of sexual or nonsexual connotations. Whether you wish to use these words will be up to your own sensibilities, but let that not cloud your understanding of the nuances of these ‘Japanese’ words. Following the same format as above, all words will be classified as anatomical, colloquial, masculine, child speech, vulgar, etc.

陰部 is the standard anatomical word for referring to the private area. 局部 also exists, but it may also mean “affected part (of the body). The direct translation of crotch is 股間. This word literally means “between the thighs,” the Kanji 股 meaning “thigh.” The native word for crotch is 股座. This may be alternatively spelled as 胯座 or 跨座. 

The private areas of men (男性器) and women (女性器) differ substantially. For men, the area is composed of the penis (陰茎) and scrotum (陰嚢/陰囊). for women, the area is composed of the vagina (膣). In so far, all of these words are anatomical in nature. Euphemisms to refer to the privates include [大事・大切]な場所・とこ(ろ), シンボル, and あそこ.

■The Penis

In the males ( 男性 ) of our species, the purposes of the penis (陰茎)  include erection (勃起), ejaculation (射精), internal fertilization (体内受精) and urination. This makes it a sex organ (性器). This may be more specifically referred to as reproductive organ 生殖器 or sexual intercourse organ (交接器). It is also an example external genitalia (外性器). In our species, it is also a urinary organ (泌尿器). The word 陰茎 strictly refers to male genitalia, and in species in which there is a similar structure in females, that structure is referred to as 陰核. There is a great misconception of learners that Japanese lacked a word for “penis” because of the existence of 陰茎 (a Sino-Japanese word) and ペニス (loanword from English), both far too technical in nature but the only words widely known that aren’t deemed slang/euphemisms. In reality, there has been a plethora of words throughout the centuries used to refer to the male organ. The oldest word that is most known is へのこ, which is not to be confused with the Japanese pronunciation of the modern Okinawan city 辺野古. There is also をばしら, which became shortened to をはせ・をはし (男茎・男端). Antiquated euphemisms include 男根, 陽物,  男陰, 陽根, 陽鉾, 玉物, etc. Childhood words that even adults may use include (お)ちんちん, ちんぽ(こ), ちんぼ(こ), (お)ちんこ, ぽこちん, ぼこちん,  etc. There are also tons of words used as secret language (隠語) to refer to the penis. Most notably, anything that is cylindrical may refer to the penis. However, there are some words that an English speaker may not expect to be used this way that are. Examples of 隠語 include: モノ・ブツ, 一物, 肉棒, 淫棒, 肉竿, 息子, 愚息, 摩羅, 大根, etc. 

Rarer dialectical words for the penis include: カモ, チエへ [Ainu], マラ [Okinawan]. 

The parts of the penis are as follows: 亀頭 (head), 亀頭冠 (glans) (colloquial: カリ(首)), 陰茎幹 (shaft), 包皮 (foreskin), 尿道 (urethra), 海綿体 (erectile tissue), 前立腺  (prostate), etc.

The scrotum (陰嚢) is a layer of skin and tissue that surrounds the testicles. The technical word for testicles is 精巣, but this word refers very broadly to the sperm (精子) making organ of males throughout sexually reproducing organisms. Semen is 精液, but the difference between it and 精子 is frequently confused. Many words have been used to refer to this such as 腎水 and 精水. In criminology, it is often called 体液. 

The testicles of mammals in particular are referred to with 睾丸. In the spoken language, testicles are most commonly referred to as (金)玉. Note that fish milt is 白子 (in case your dictionary falsely equivocates it with the word testicle). The vernacular word for the scrotum is ふぐり, which is thought to derive from the word for bag, 袋. This word has no single Kanji spelling, being written as 陰嚢, 殖栗, 布久利, etc. Other slang words include (玉・皮)袋 as well as (お)いなり(さん), the latter being  a dirty joke as it also has standard, important meanings*.

※It must be noted now that most dirty jokes 下ネタ in Japanese are based on words utilize common-use words of non-sexual meaning. The concept of “bad words” in the English sense does not truly exist in Japanese. There are many words whose use is not permitted on television, but most of those words are (outdated) discriminatory vocabulary. With the existence of speech styles, the idea of inappropriate speech is more broad yet delicate. 

■The Vagina 

In the females (女性) of species, the purposes of the vagina (膣) include urination (排尿), sexual intercourse (性行為) , menstruation (月経), and childbirth (分娩).

Just as ペニス has been borrowed into Japanese, so has ヴァギナ・バギナ・ワギナ, but it too does not find itself used much outside of a technical sense. Euphemisms and slang do exist, however. As general euphemisms have already been covered, we shall go over the slang/dirty vocab which include: (お)まんこ and まんまん, , ぼぼ, etc. Ancient words include ほと,  窪(くぼ), 丹穴, 朱室, etc. 

There are also many dialectical words, the most common of which include: おそそ, おめこ, まんじょ(こ), おちゃこ, ちょんちょん, だんべ,  べっちょこ, サマンぺ [Ainu], 宝味(ほうみ)[Okinawan], etc. 

陰核/クリトリス are anatomical words for the clitoris,  which also goes by 陰梃 and 陰唇. Older words include:  雛頭・雛尖・吉舌(ひなさき)and さね. 

Other parts of the vaginas:

1. 陰核包皮 (clitoral hood)

2. 外陰部 is the anatomical word for “vulva,” but it must be noted that words which technically refer to it may also refer to the entire female genitalia in practical use. Such words include: 陰門, 女陰, 通鼻, 女門, etc.  

3. 陰裂 “pudendal cleft) is colloquially referred to as the 割れ目/裂け目 of a woman. Adapted to casual conversation, the childhood word われめちゃん may also refer to the entire female genitalia. 

4. 恥丘 (mons pubis)

5. 大陰唇 (labia majora)

6. 小陰唇 (labia minora)

7. 尿道口 (urethral opening)

8. 膣口 (vaginal opening)

9. 処女膜 (hymen)

■The Buttocks

The anatomical word for buttocks is 臀部. The colloquial word is (お)尻. The anatomical word for anus is 肛門, but this is colloquially referred to as お尻の穴. In slang (お)穴(ケツ) may be seen, but just as in English, this may refer to the “ass/arse,” in which case the redundant ケツ(の)穴 may be seen to refer to the anus.  

The left and right buttocks are respectively called 左の尻 and 右の尻. 

Older/dialectical words include:  おいど(御居処), いしき (居敷), アナル. In Old Japanese, it was also called いさらい. In some dialects, the words 尻 and けつ may be followed by the suffix -っぺた to refer to the rather flat, raised part of the buttocks. 

※陰毛・ちん毛 [colloquial] = Pubic hair
※肛門の毛・尻毛・ケツ毛 [colloquial] = Anal hair
※会陰 = Perineum

※痔(疾) = Hemorrhoids

※痔核・疣痔 = Piles
※裂肛・切れ痔 = Anal fissure
※痔瘻・孔痔 = Anal fistula

※Important expressions include: 尻取り (shiritori: a word-chain game), 尻拭い (cleaning up someone else’s mess), etc. 

Parts of the Legs/Feet 脚・足の部位

 Leg  太腿 Thigh 脹脛 Calf 膝 Knee
 脛 Shin 足首 Ankle 足 Foot 踵 Heel
 爪先 Tips of the toes 足の甲 Instep 足裏 Sole 足指 Toe(s)

■Legs/Feet = Lower Limbs

※In anatomy, the lower limbs are referred to as 下肢. The Kanji 肢 itself means “limb,” which also produces the word 四肢 to refer to all “four limbs.” The Old Japanese word for “limb” was え, which is still seen in the word for branch (枝).


※The Kanji 腿 technically refers to either the thigh or shin, and so in Sino-Japanese words, more exact distinctions are made: 上腿 (above the knee), 下腿 (below the knee), 大腿 (thigh), 小腿 (shin). 


※Another word for calf is  腓(こむら). In exercise, the calf may be referred to with カーフ.


※The ankle may also be called(足の)踝. As such, the wrist may also be called 手(の)踝, but this is rare.

■Parts of the Knee

※The front part of the knee is called 膝頭・膝小僧. The back of the knee is called 引屈(ひかがみ)in the spoken language, 膝窩 in anatomy, and  膕(よほろ・よぼろ)in older Japanese. 


裸足・跣 = barefoot. 

■The Heel

※踵 may be read as either かかと or きびす, with the former just being more common. 


※爪 is the word for “nail.” It can also refer to the nails, claws, and talons of other animals. 

■Sole of the Foot

※Also 足の裏, it may also be referred to as 足底 or 趺(あなひら). あしうら may also be spelled as 蹠.

Internal Organs 臓器・器官

You may have noticed that aside from minor exceptions, almost no words were mentioned regarding the organs of the body. Although several external organs were mentioned, there is still a lot to learn about what resides inside the body. To begin, we’ll learn the names of the systems of the body and then we’ll learn about the most important organs that have yet to be introduced.


器官 is a collective entity of the body that forms a particular function. 臓器 is synonymous, but it is often most employed when referring to organs of the torso. These organs may also be called 内臓. Oddly enough, the heart is usually not deemed by speakers to fit under the definition of 内臓. However, this has not always been the case as represented by the phrase 五臓六腑, the traditional classification of the human organs. 五臓 referred to the liver, heart, spleen, heart, and kidneys, and 六腑 referred to the gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, bladder, and the san jiao (三焦)–a functional metabolic organ in Chinese medicine. 


Organs are also covered by all sorts of membranes (膜). Many such membranes have been discussed so far, both some very important words include: 鼓膜 (eardrum), 網膜 (retina), 脳膜 (meninges), 肋膜 (pleura), 腹膜 (peritoneum), 隔膜 (diaphragm), 核膜 (nuclear membrane), 粘膜 (mucous membrane), 皮膜 (film/skin and membrane), 結膜 (conjunctiva), etc. 

■The Organ Systems 器官系

消化器系  Digestive System 循環器系Circulatory System 呼吸器系  Respiratory System
 泌尿器系  Urinary System生殖器系Reproductive System 内分泌系 Endocrine System
 感覚器系  Sensory System 神経系  Nervous System 運動器系 Motor System

The Digestive System 消化器系

The most important organ of the digestive system is the digestive tract 消化管. The digestive tract is then controlled by various 消化腺 (digestive glands) and auxiliary organs (付属器) such as the teeth (歯) and the liver (肝臓). Below are parts of the digestive system that have yet to be introduced.

唾液腺 Saliva glands 壁 (Digestive) wall 胃 Stomach
 食道 Esophagus 小腸 Small intestine 大腸 Large intestine
膵臓 Pancreas 肝臓 Liver 胆嚢 Gall bladder

■Saliva Glands

※The saliva glands of the human body are as follows. 耳下腺 (parotid gland), 舌下腺 (sublingual gland), and 顎下腺 (submandibular gland) are the major salivary glands (大唾液腺), and the minor salivary glands (小唾液腺) are(口)唇腺 (labial gland), 臼歯腺 (molar glands), 口蓋腺 (palatine gland), and 頬腺 (buccal gland). 

■The Stomach

※The stomach be colloquially called 胃袋. The parts of the stomach are: 胃液 (gastric juice), 胃壁 (gastric wall, 胃体 (gastric corpus), 大彎 (greater curvature) , 小弯 (lesser curvature), 噴門 (cardiac orifice), 胃底 stomach fundus), and 幽門 (pylorus). 

■The Intestines 腸

※The parts of the small intestine are: 十二指腸 (duodenum), 空腸 (jejunum), 回腸 (ileum), 

※The parts of the large intestine are: 盲腸 (cecum), 虫垂 (appendix), 結腸 (colon), 直腸 (rectum)

※腸 is the word for intestine, and it may be alternatively read はらわた. 臓腑 is another option. 臓物 also exists, but it is used to refer to animal intestines.  

※The stomach and intestines are often referred to simultaneously with the word 胃腸.

■The Liver

The native word liver is 肝. This word is used a lot in various set phrases, but whenever the situation heavily employs medical contexts, 肝臓 is the preferred word.
※Important expressions include: 肝機能 (liver function), 肝細胞 (hepatocyte/liver cell), 肝油 (liver oil), 肝不全 (liver failure), 肝っ魂 (guts), 肝疾患 (liver disease), 肝管 (hepatic duct), 肝動脈 (hepatic artery), etc.

■The Gall bladder

※The gall bladder is responsible for creating and storing bile (胆汁), which is delivered to the necessary parts of the body via the bile duct (胆管・胆道). 

The Circulatory System 循環器系

The circulatory system is alternative called 脈管系. The circulatory system can then be split into two parts: the vascular system (血管系) and the lymphatic system (リンパ系). The cardiovascular system (心血管系) is responsible for carrying oxygenated blood away from the heart to the rest of the body in a process called 体循環. The opposite of this is pulmonary circulation (肺循環), which carries oxygen-depleted blood away from the heart to the lungs so that it may return oxygen-rich (see below for the respiratory system).   

血液 Blood 血管Blood vessels心臓 Heartリンパ液 Lymph fluid
 動脈  Artery 静脈  Vein リンパ管  Lymph duct リンパ節 Lymph node
 リンパ腺Lymph gland  胸腺 Thymus 胎盤 Placenta 脾臓 Spleen


※The colloquial word for blood for blood 血. “Blood cell” is 血球. Red and white blood cells are called 赤血球 and 白血球 respectively. These words are pronounced fully with their Sino-Japanese readings. 

※動脈血 = “oxygenated blood”, 静脈血 = “venous blood.” 

Other important words: 出血 (hemorrhage), 貧血(症) (anemia), 血栓 (blood clot), etc. 

■Blood Vessels

※毛細血管 = “capillaries.”

※脈(拍・搏) means “pulse,” but the Kanji 脈 may also mean “vein,” which is why it is seen in the words 動脈 and 静脈.  血脈 also exists as a colloquial variant of 血管 but with a secondary meaning of “blood relationship” as well as an outdated, alternative reading of けちみゃく.  

■The Heart

※心臓 is the “heart” as in the body part. 心 is most figurative.
※The parts of the heart are: 心臓壁 (cardiac wall)0(左・右)心房 ([left/right] atrium),(左・右)心室 ([left/right] ventricle), 大動脈 (aorta), 上大動脈 (superior aorta), 下大静脈 (descending aorta), 大動脈弁 (aortic valve), 肺動脈 (pulmonary artery), 肺動脈弁 (pulmonary valve), 僧帽弁 (mitral valve), 三尖弁 (tricupsid valve), 心膜 (pericardium), etc.

※左 and 右 in the words above are read with their Sino-Japanese readings. The same goes for 上 and 下.  

※Important expressions include: 心不全 (heart failure), 心身 (mind and body), 心筋梗塞 (myocardial infarction), 心電図 (electrocardiogram), 心臓病 (heart disease/trouble), 心疾患 (heart disease), 心停止 (cardiac arrest), 心臓発作 (heart attack), 心臓麻痺 (cardioplegia), etc. 

■Lymphatic System リンパ系

※リンパ本幹・胸管 = “thoracic duct.”

※リンパ球 = “lymphocyte.” 

※リンパ may be written in Kanji as 淋巴. 

■The Placenta

The placenta is the organ which provides blood and nutrients from the mother’s body (母体) to the fetus (胎児). Other primary functions of the placenta include metabolic exchange (代謝物質交換), gas exchange (ガス交換), and immune support (免疫的支援).  

As a part of afterbirth (後産), the amnion 羊膜, amniotic fluid (羊水), and umbilical cord (臍帯) are collectively called 胞衣(えな).

The Respiratory System 呼吸器系


The respiratory system is crucial for aerobic respiration 酸素呼吸–as opposed to anaerobic respiration (無気呼吸). CO2 (二酸化炭素) is exchanged for oxygen (酸素). External respiration is called 外呼吸, whereas internal respiration is 内呼吸, in which it is synonymous with metabolism (代謝). 

The colloquial word for respiration/breathing is 息をする. 息 is the word for “breath.” 

■Respiratory Organs

Human respiratory organs (呼吸器) can be split into two categories: the upper respiratory tract (上気道) and the lower respiratory tract (下気道). The upper respiratory tract is composed of words we’ve already seen: 鼻腔 (nasal cavity), 咽頭 (pharynx), and 喉頭 (larynx) . The lower respiratory tract is composed of the 気管 (trachea), 主気管支 (main bronchi), and 肺 (the lungs).

■The Lungs 肺

The lungs are also called 肺臓. Other important words regarding the lungs include: 肺胞 (alveoli), 上葉 (upper lobe(s)), 中葉 (medial lobe(s)), 下葉 (lower lobe(s)), 両肺 (both lungs), etc. As for “left” and right,” the terms 左肺and 右肺 are used. Their anatomical readings are Sino-Japanese and their colloquial readings are native. 

The Urinary System 泌尿器系

Excluding genitalia which has already been covered above, the primary organs of the urinary system are as follows.

腎臓 Kidney 尿管 Ureter
 膀胱 Bladder 尿道 Urethra

※The Old Japanese word for “kidney” is 腎(むらと). 

※The medical word for “urine” is 尿. The native word, which is no longer in use, is いばり・ゆばり. Colloquial terms include: 小便, ションベン, (お)しっこ,  and (お)小水. 

The Reproductive System 生殖器系

The reproductive organs of the human body differ depending on the biological sex of the individual. 

■Male Reproductive Organs

  1. 精巣(睾丸)= Testicles
  2. 陰嚢 = Scrotum
  3. 精巣上体・副睾丸 = Epididymis
  4. 射精管 = Ejaculatory duct 
  5. 尿道球腺・カウパー腺 = Cowper’s gland
  6. 精嚢 = Seminal vesicle
  7. 前立腺 = Prostrate gland
  8. 陰茎 = Penis 

■Female Reproductive Organs

  1. 卵巣 = ovaries 
  2. (輸)卵管 = Fallopian tubes
  3. 子宮 = Womb
  4. 膣 = Vagina
  5. 胎盤 = Placenta

※卵(子)is the word for “egg” in human reproduction and is read with Sino-Japanese readings.

※The word for zygote is 受精卵 (fertilized egg).

※胎児 = fetus, 出産 = birth,    死胎 = dead fetus, 死産 = stillbirth, 流産 = miscarriage

※As a part of reproductive morphology (生殖形態), placental birth (胎生) is carried out by the placenta (胎盤). Components which are extracted from the placenta is called placental extract (プラセンタ(エキス)胎盤抽出物・胎盤漿), which has many medicinal properties. Do not confuse プラセンタ as being synonymous with 胎盤.

The Endocrine System 内分泌器系

The endocrine system’s role is secreted hormones ホルモン through endocrine glands (内分泌腺). The endocrine system may also go by the names 内分泌系 and 液体調整系. The primary parts of the endocrine system are as follows:

  1. 松果体 = Pineal body
  2. (脳)下垂体 = Pituitary gland
  3. 甲状腺 = Thyroid gland
  4. 副腎・腎上体 = Adrenal gland
  5. 膵臓 = Pancreas
  6. 卵巣 = Ovaries
  7. 精巣 = Testicles

The Sensory System 感覚器系

There are six basic senses (感覚) represented by a signature organ.  These senses are sight  (視覚), hearing  (聴覚), smell (嗅覚), taste (味覚), feeling (触覚), and balance (平衡覚). All of these words may be followed by the suffix -器 to represent the organ(s) of said systems. 

視覚器 Optic organ 聴覚器 Auditory organ 嗅覚器 Olfactory organ
 味覚器 Taste organ 触覚器 Tactoreceptor 平衡覚器 Equilibrium organ

Each sensory type has a signature organ. These organs are as follows:

  1. 目 = Eye(s)
  2. 耳 = Ear(s)
  3. 鼻 = Nose
  4. 舌 = Tongue
  5. 皮膚 = Skin
  6. 三半規管 = Semicircular canals

※Though these sensory organs are all responsible for where these sensations occur, the brain (脳) is the organ which then processes that information. 

■The Skin

※The skin may also be called 肌. Both 肌 and 皮膚 are common in the spoken language. As for 肌, it is alternatively spelled as 膚. It also possesses the older reading はだえ. 

The three basic layers of the skin are the 表皮 (epidermis), 真皮 (derma), and 皮下組織 (hypodermis). Among these layers are even more specific structures. 

There are four types of epidermic cells which form their unique stratum. At the base stratum there are basal cells. These cells migrate and transform into the cells above them as they themselves progress further to the surface in the life of the cell. These cell types are: 有棘細胞 (squamous cells), 顆粒細胞 (granule cells), 角質細胞・ケラチノサイト (keratinocytes). The names of the strata they create all end in 層: 有棘層 (squamous layer), 顆粒層 (granule layer), 角(質)層 (keratin layer).  The top of the epidermis is called 上皮. This is where melanin (メラニン) is produced. 

The derma can be roughly split into two parts: 乳頭層 (papillary layer) and 網状層 (reticular layer).  The derma is also the home of sweat glands (汗腺) which produce sweat (汗). Lastly, the hypodermis is mostly composed of subcutaneous fat (皮下脂肪). 

※Important expressions include: 肌着 (underclothes), 肌触り (the touch of/feel of), 肌色 (skin color), 肌身 (body: literally ‘skin and body’), 肌合い (disposition), etc.
※Various skin conditions include: 面皰 (pimples), 痘痕 (pockmark), 吹き出物 (skin eruption), 発疹 (rash), (青)痣 (bruise), 擦過傷 (abrasion), 火傷 (burn), 蕁麻疹 (hives), etc.

※皺 = wrinkles.

The Nervous System 神経系

The nervous system is composed of chains of neurons 神経細胞・ニューロン which compose nerves (神経). In between neurons are synapses (シナプス), which allow for neurotransmitters (神経伝達物質) to be secreted (分泌). These neuron chains (ニューロン連鎖) are believed to be the root of memory (記憶), thought (思考), judgment (判断), emotion (感情), and all sorts of mental activities (精神活動) via sensation (感覚) and movement (運動). Neuron chains then create conduction paths (伝導路). In these paths (経路), there are both afferent (求心性神経) and efferent nerves (遠心性神経).  

In our species, the nervous system is split into two parts: the central nervous system (中枢神経系) and the peripheral nervous system (末梢神経系).  

■The Peripheral Nervous System

The peripheral nervous system is composed of axons (神経線維束) that gather in nerve cell bodies (神経細胞体) and which reside in ganglions (神経節). Peripheral nerves connect with central nerves in specific locations of the body, which either emanate from the brain (脳) or the spinal cord (脊髄). 

■The Central Nervous System

The central nervous system (中枢神経系) is largely composed of the brain (脳) and spinal cord (脊髄). In our species, the cerebrum (大脳) is highly developed. This part of the brain also goes by the name telencephalon, which translates to 終脳. it is placed directly beneath the cranium (頭蓋骨) and is split into three main structures (構造): 大脳皮質 (cerebral cortex), 白質 (white matter), 大脳基底核 (basal ganglia). The cerebral cortex is a thin layer of grey matter (灰白質 [Sino-Jap.]). “White matter/substantia alba” is a collection of nerve fibers/axons (神経線維) located beneath the cerebral cortex. The basal ganglia is the center region of the cerebum and exists as a collection of nerve cells/neurons that surround the interbrain (間脳). The interbrain is the mainstay of the autonomic nerves (自律神経) between the cerebral hemisphere (大脳半球) and the midbrain (中脳). Nerve tissue (神経組織) is composed neurons, which relay information, and many more glial cells (グリア細胞・神経膠細胞), as well as oligodendrocytes (希突起膠細胞・オリゴデンドロサイト) and astrocytes (アストロサイト・アストログリア). 

The spinal cord is approximately 40 centimeters in length and is found inside the spinal canal (脊柱管), which itself inside a chain of vertebrae (椎骨). It is a very cylindrical organ (円柱状器官) and becomes very thin towards the bottom. Emanating from the spinal cord are 31 left-right pairs of nerve bundles (神経束) that spread out spinal nerves (脊髄神経) which spread throughout the body. 

Of the nerves worth learning about, those would be the 12 cranial nerves (脳神経) of the central nervous system. 

■Cranial Nerves 脳神経

 第一脳神経 嗅神経Olfactory nerve
 第二脳神経 視神経 Optic nerve
 第三脳神経 動眼神経  Oculomotor nerve
 第四脳神経 滑車神経  Trochlear nerve
 第五脳神経 三叉神経  Trigeminal nerve
 第六脳神経 外転神経  Abducens nerve
 第七脳神経 顔面神経  Facial nerve
 第八脳神経 内耳神経・聴神経・前庭蝸牛神経 Vestibulocochlear nerve/Auditory nerve
 第九脳神経 舌咽神経 Glossopharyngeal nerve
 第十脳神経 迷走神経 Vagus nerve
 第十一脳神経 副神経  Accessory nerve
 第十二脳神経 舌下神経  Hypoglossal nerve

Pain 痛み 

The word 痛み refers to both physical and psychological pain. In the latter sense, it is interchangeable with 苦痛 and 苦しみ. However, because we are focusing on the body, we will only be focusing on words that describe physical pain. For Sino-Japanese words, specific pains may be described with a part of the body + the suffix -痛. For native words, specific pains may be described with a part of the body + の痛み.

The medical terminology for physical pain is 疼痛. The Kanji 疼 means “to ache” and can also be found in the verb 疼く (to ache). Pain comes from stimuli (刺激) to the various peripheral nerves (末梢神経) of the body. Pain is often alleviated through pain killers (鎮痛薬・鎮痛剤).  

Many words can be used to describe the degree of pain (痛みの程度). When filling out a medical form, you may see words such as these listed to choose from: 激痛 (sharp pain), 鈍痛 (dull pain), 無痛 (no pain). However, describing pain in your own words is just as important. Phrases to consider include the following:

■Kinds of Pain

  1. 突き刺されるような痛み = A piercing pain 
  2. 締め付けられる痛み = A constricting pain 
  3. 焼けつくような痛み = A burning pain
  4. 重苦しい痛み = A heavy pain
  5. 割れるような痛み = A splitting pain 
  6. 気分が悪くなるような痛み = A pain which makes one’s feel bad
  7. 疼くような痛み = An aching pain 
  8. 触ると痛い = Hurts from touching 
  9. ズキンズキンと脈打つ痛み = A pulsing pain. 

■Pain Onomatopoeia  痛みの擬音語

Japanese is full of onomatopoeia related to pain. Classic examples include ビリビリ (a shocking/paralyzing pain =痺れるような痛み), ジンジン (a burning pain = 焼けるような痛み), チクチク (being stabbed by a needle sort of pain = 針で突き刺されるような痛み), etc. Studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of Japanese speakers will describe their pain in terms of onomatopoeia rather than describing it out. 

ズキズキ: A strong pulsing pain associated with headaches, wounds, toothaches, etc. Its emphatic form is ズキンズキン. 

チクチク: A prickling/stinging pain. 

ギシギシ: Muscle/joint pain, often associated with growing pains and knee pain. 

ジンジン: A strong numbing pain, often caused by bumping into something hard or the feeling of being shocked.

ガンガン: The sense of a large sound reverberating through one’s head, often associated with migraines. 

ヒリヒリ ビリビリ ピリピリ

Many pairs of onomatopoeia exist which differ in the voicing of the consonants. This is a perfect example of a three-way form distinction, but the forms do not end there. These three words each have three forms: [ヒリヒリ, ヒリッ, ヒリリ], [ビリビリ, ビリッ, ビリリ], and [ピリピリ, ピリッ, ピリリ] respectively. All of these forms share a common meaning of expressing pain resulting from stimuli due to friction, heat (spice and temperature), and electric currents. Many of these forms have non-pain related meanings, which are omitted below.

①Continued feeling of the nerves and/or skin burning (literally). Gives a sense of pressing anxiety (figuratively). 

②Feeling of throat feeling so dry it hurts. 
③Prolonged, sharp spicy feeling. 

Body parts which native speakers attribute ひりひり to most often include: the skin, (parts of the hand) hands, face, etc. Injuries associated with it include sunburn (日焼け), burns (火傷), and bruises (擦り傷). 

①Feeling a stimulus/pain/spice for a brief moment. 

①Feeling a sharp pain/stimulus only momentarily.
②Repeated shaking of the body in short intervals.  


①Continuous, strong, throbbing stimulation/pain. 

Body parts which native speakers attribute びりびり to most often include: the feet, skin, elbow, hands, tongue, arms, shoulders, etc. Feelings such as the feet becoming numb, feeling of hitting one’s elbow, and overall feeling of electric shock are common injuries associated with it. 


①The sense/sound of electricity running through the air/body. 

①Temporary feeling of being shocked.

①Strong stimulation to the heart/nerves. 
②Continuously feeling sharp stimulation/pain.

Body parts which native speakers ぴりぴり attribute to most often include: the tongue, skin, hands, mouth, feet, etc. Injuries/stimuli most associated are “the pain from eating spicy food,” “a paralyzing pain,” “feeling of electric shock,” etc.  


①Feeling a sharp stimulation only briefly, especially relating to spice. 

②May also express the body tightening up. 

①Temporary sharp stimulus of shock/from spice.

■Degree Words

鈍い = Dull

緩やかな = Mild

激しい = Severe

鋭い = Sharp

■Frequency  頻度

絶え間ない = Constant

慢性的な = Chronic

断続的な = Intermittent


局所的な = Localized

広範囲の = Widespread

放射性の = Radiating

深部からくる・奥深い = Deep

■Specific Pains 特定の痛み

頭痛 Headache 偏頭痛 Migraine 腹痛 Abdominal pain
 腰痛 Lumbago 背痛 Backache 胸痛 Chest pain
 神経痛 Neuralgia 筋肉痛 Myalgia関節痛Arthralgia
 陣痛・産痛 Labor pain生理痛・月経痛 Menstrual pain排卵痛 Ovulation pain
 胃痛Gastralgia   歯痛 Toothache 耳痛 Aural pain
 痛風 Gout 群発性頭痛 Cluster headache 緊張性頭痛 Tension headache
 痛手 Wound 膵臓痛 Pancreatic pain 癌性疼痛 Cancer pain
  圧痛 Tenderness 成長痛 Growing pains 関連痛 Referred pain

Some of these words are very common in the spoken language. However, some of them, as their English translations suggest, are medical jargon. For instance, ear pain is medically described as 耳の痛み. However, your diagnosis paper from your Japanese physician will likely have 耳痛 listed. Medical forms are the most practical use of these technical words. 

Of these words, two words not created with the suffix -痛 were introduced: 痛風  (gout) and 痛手 (serious wound). The latter is a native word which is synonymous with 深手. Wounds are also called 傷, and the word for injury is 怪我. Wounds are also described in terms of 軽傷 (light injury) and 重傷 (serious injury). 

Kinds of Conditions: 炎, 症, 病

The nervous system helps us be aware of various health problems. Many words related to the body are combined with the following suffixes: -炎 (inflammatory disease = 炎症), -症 (illness), and -病 (disease).  Though there are countless words made with these endings, we’ll limit our scope to those commonly used/known. 

■The Suffix -炎

肺炎Pneumonia  口内炎 Mouth ulcer 皮膚炎 Dermatitis
 肝炎 Hepatitis 気管支炎 Bronchitis 虫垂炎 Appendicitis
 腱鞘炎 Tendonitis  膀胱炎 Cystitis 関節炎 Arthritis
 脳炎 Encephalitis 髄膜炎 Meningitis 胃炎 Gastritis
 扁桃炎Tonsillitis 鼻炎 Rhinitis 副鼻腔炎  Sinusitis
 大腸炎 Colitis 胆嚢炎 Cholecystitis 膵(臓)炎 Pancreatitis

■The Suffix -症

感染症 Infectious disease 神経症 Neurosis
 性行為感染症 STD/STI 高血圧症 Hypertension
 骨粗鬆症 Osteoporosis血栓症 Thrombosis
 前立腺肥大症 Prostrate enlargement 動脈硬化症 Atherosclerosis
 筋緊張症 Myotonia 鎌状赤血球症 Sickle-cell disease
 脳症Encephalopathy  陰茎折症  Penile fracture

■The Suffix -病

心臓病 Heart disease 皮膚病 Skin disease
 白血病 Leukemia 歯周病 Gum disease
糖尿病 Diabetes 眼病 Eye disease
 禿頭病 Loss of hair 伝染病 Contagious disease

The Motor System 運動器系

The motor system is characterized by bones (骨) and joints (関節), which form the skeleton 骨格・骨骼.  The skeleton, as in skeletonized remains (白骨化した遺体), is called 骸骨. You may also see the loanword スケルトン, but this may also be used to refer to the skeletons of buildings, which are usually called 骨組み. 

骨, when read as ほね, is a native word still used as the primary word for bones. However, its Sino-Japanese reading こつ is found in every anatomic word related to bones, and it can even be seen in isolation as the honorific word for bone(s)–お骨. The body is also full of cartilage (軟骨 = literally ‘soft bone’). In total, the adult human body has about 206 bones.  

■Important Bones

※Some bones which have already been mentioned are omitted from this list.

  1. 前頭骨 = Frontal bone
  2. 蝶型骨 = Sphenoid bone
  3. 頭頂骨 = Parietal bone
  4. 側頭骨 = Temporal bone
  5. 後頭骨 = Occipital bone
  6. 頬骨・顴骨 =  Zygomatic bone
  7. 涙骨 = Lacrimal bone
  8. 口蓋骨 = Palatine bone
  9. 舌骨 = Hyoid bone
  10. 肩甲骨・肩胛骨 = Scapula/shoulder blade
  11. 尺骨 = Ulna
  12. 上腕骨 = Humerus
  13. 寛骨 = Hipbone
  14. 仙骨 = Sacrum
  15. 尾骨 = Coccyx/tailbone
  16. 大腿骨 = Femur/thighbone
  17. 膝蓋骨 = Patella/kneecap
    ※Colloquially known as 腹の(お)皿
  18. 脛骨 = Tibia/shinbone
  19. 腓骨 = Fibula
  20. 距骨 = Talus/anklebone
  21. 踵骨 = Calcaneus/heel bone
  22. 立方骨 = Cuboid bone
  23. 舟状骨 = Scaphoid bone

24. 脊柱・背骨 = Spinal column/back bone

Most words use the Sino-Japanese reading, but occasionally you will encounter expressions that utilize the native -ぼね such as 背骨. 

関節 is the standard word for joint, but it too has a native equivalent in the form of 節.  This word is quite common, but it also has figurative meanings including but not exclusive to “notable characteristic.” To refer to all the joints of the body, you may also hear 節々. Another important word related to joints is “fist” (拳) and “knuckles” (拳骨).

■Important Joints

  1. 顎関節 = Temporomandibular joint/jaw joint
  2. 肩関節 = Shoulder joint
  3. 股関節 = Coxa/hip joint
  4. 手関節 = Wrist joint
  5. 指節間関節 = Interphalangeal joint
  6. 肘関節 = Elbow joint
  7. 足関節 = Ankle joint
  8. 膝関節 = Knee joint
  9. 橈骨手根関節 = Radiocarpal joint
  10. 椎間関節 = Facet joint

 All sorts of muscles (筋肉) attach bones to joints. There are both tendons (腱) and ligaments (靭帯). Muscles from meat, which is referred to as 肉 regardless of its that of a human or any other animal. The native word for “meat” is しし; however, this word has become an archaism. 
■Important Muscles/Tendons/Ligaments

  1. 表情筋 = Mimetic muscle
  2. 僧帽筋 = Trapezius muscle
  3. 三角筋 = Deltoid muscle
  4. 大胸筋 = Major pectoral muscle
  5. 心筋 = Cardiac muscle
  6. 腹直筋 = Abdominal rectus muscle
  7. 上腕二頭筋  = Upper arm biceps
  8. 橈側手根屈筋 = Flexor carpi radialis muscle
  9. 大腿四頭筋 = Quadriceps
  10. 膝蓋靭帯 = Patellar ligament
  11. 前脛骨筋 = Tibialis anterior muscle
  12. ヒラメ筋 = Soleus muscle
  13. 後頭筋 = Occiptalis muscle
  14. 広背筋 = Latissimus dorsi
  15. 大殿筋 = Gluteus maximus
  16. 大腿二頭筋 = Biceps femoris
  17. 腓腹筋 = Gastrocnemius muscle
  18. アキレス腱 = Achilles’ tendon

    ※筋 when read as すじ is the native word for muscle, but in Modern speech, it typically refers to muscle sinew, but it is still a very common word. Note that the anatomic way to say “muscle sinew” is 筋(肉)繊維.
    ※肌肉 is an alternative word for “muscle” with a more colloquial sense of “flesh,” which is adapted from Chinese. It is not that common as it is a relatively recent borrowing.
    ※筋骨 = “muscles and bones” when read as きんこつ but native word for “cartilage” when read as すじぼね.
    ※腱鞘 = sheath of tendon 

Organelles 細胞小器官

The human eukaryotic cell (真核細胞) is composed of various organ-like structures called organelles, which in turn are referred to as 細胞(小)器官 or オルガネラ. These are membrane (膜) covered structures (構造体). Each organelle possesses its own unique function, in a way behaving as its own life form (生命個体). 

For instance, the organelle responsible for oxygen absorption (酸素の吸収) and release of carbon dioxide (二酸化炭素の排出) is the mitochondria (ミトコンドリア).  Below are the organelles you should be most familiar with, especially if your field is in biology. 

 (細胞)核 Nucleus Responsible for storage (保存) and transmission (伝達) of genetic information (遺伝情報). 
 核小体・(核)仁 Nucleolus A molecule (分子) dense area in the center of the nucleus where rRNA transcription (転写) and ribosome construction occurs.
 ゴルジ体  Golgi body Also known as ゴルジ装置 (Golgi apparatus), ゴルジ複合体 (Golgi complex), or 網状体 (dictyosome), its functions include the processing (プロセシング) of proteins (蛋白質) composing the ribosome as well as the modification of protein sugar-chains (糖鎖修飾) that are then excreted (分泌) outside of the cell. 
 エンドソーム EndosomeA kind of vesicle (小胞) that sorts material before reaching the lysosome. 
 リソソーム Lysosome Also called リソゾーム, ライソソーム、 ライソゾーム, or 水解小体, it is a kind of vesicle that breaks down biomolecules 生体物質. 
 ミトコンドリア Mitochondria Many cells have hundreds whereas some have none. They also possess their own DNA called ミトコンドリアDNA. Its technical Japanese name is 糸粒体.
 葉緑体 Chloroplast Also known as クロロプラスト, though not a part of animal cells, it is a very important organelle to plants as it is where photosynthesis (光合成) takes place.
 ペルオキシソームPeroxisome An organelle with metabolic pathway functions such as the beta-oxidation (β酸化) of very-long-chain-fatty acids (超長脂肪酸), the composition (合成) of cholorestorol (コレステロール) and bile (胆汁),  the metabolism (代謝) of amino acids (アミノ酸), etc.
小胞 Vesicles Many kinds of vesicles exist. Common functions include metabolism, material transport (物質輸送), and temporary storage (貯蓄) of cell biproducts (合成産物).
 粗面小胞体 Rough-surfaced endoplasmic reticulumEndoplasmic reticulum which ribosomes are attached. Materials secreted from it are transported to the Golgi body. 
 滑面小胞体  Smooth-surfaced endoplasmic reticulum Endoplasmic reticulum void of ribosomes. It synthesizes lipids (脂質), phospholipids (燐脂質), and steroids (ステロイドホルモン). 
 液胞 Vacuole Common functions include:
①Isolating (隔離) materials that may be harmful (有害) to the cell.
②Containing (保管) and exporting (排出) waste products (不要物).
③Maintaining (維持) an acidic (酸性) internal pH.
④Containing small molecules (低分子). 
⑤Maintaining internal hydrostatic pressure (内部の静水圧)/turgor within the cell (細胞の膨圧).
 微小管 Microtubule Involved in the cytoskeleton (細胞骨格) as well as a cell dividing apparatus (分裂装置).
 中心体 Centrosome Also known as 微小管形成中心, it is the main micortubule organizing center of the animal cell.
 リボソーム Ribosome Organelle responsible for protein synthesis by translating (翻訳) genetic information from mRNA. 

Cancer 癌

At times, cells of the body lose the control mechanisms involved in their replication (増殖).  Tumors can be roughly divided into two kinds: benign tumors (良性腫瘍) and malignant tumors (悪性腫瘍), with malignant tumors often becoming 浸潤性腫瘍 (invasive tumors) which then metastasize (転移) throughout the body. 

Malignant tumors are colloquially known as cancer (癌). In turn, cancer can be categorized by two broad types:

  1. 癌腫 (carcinoma) : malignant cells that form from epithelial cells.  
  2. 肉腫 (sarcoma): malignant cells that from from non-epithelial cells. 

Any part of the body is susceptible to becoming cancerous. Early-stage cancer is known as 早期癌 and advanced cancer is known as 進行癌, and the worst of which are terminal cancer (末期癌). The emergence of cancer is called 発癌–carcinogenic = 発癌性, carcinogen = 発癌(性)物質. The opposite of 発癌性 is 抗癌性.

Most cancer names are very straightforward, being a combination of the body part + 癌. As such, we will only cover a handful of names that impact human lives the most. 

肺癌 Lung cancer 胃癌 Stomach cancer 乳癌 Breast cancer
 子宮癌 Uterine cancer 前立腺癌 Prostate cancer 甲状腺癌 Thyroid cancer
 肝細胞癌 Hepatoma 膵(臓)癌  Pancreatic cancer皮膚癌 Skin cancer
 膀胱癌 Bladder cancer食道癌 Esophageal cancer 口腔癌 Oral cancer
 腸癌 Intestinal cancer 卵巣癌 Ovarian cancer 肝臓癌 Liver cancer
 結腸癌 Colon cancer 舌癌 Tongue cancer 咽頭癌 Throat cancer

■Ulcers 潰瘍

Ulcers are similar to cancer in that they are unnatural cell growths caused either by injury and/or infection. The most common ulcers that people face as oral ulcers (口腔潰瘍) and stomach ulcers (胃潰瘍), but they can appear in various parts of the body.