Naming of Muscles

Learning the names of muscles can be very confusing or even overwhelming for someone learning this information for the first time. I would suggest you study the skeletal system and bone surface markings on the understanding bones page prior to skeletal muscles as learning the names of the bones and their parts will significantly help in learning the names of the muscles. Below is a chart of characteristics used when naming muscles.

Name Definition Example
  Direction of Muscle Fascicles  
Rectus Parallel to mid-line Rectus Abdominus
Transverse Perpendicular to mid-line Transversus Abdominus
Oblique Diagonal to mid-line External Oblique
  Size of Muscles  
Maximus Largest Gluteus Maximus
Minimus Smallest Gluteus Minimus
Longus Long Adductor Longus
Brevis Short Adductor Brevis
Latissimus Widest Latissimus Dorsi
Longissimus Longest Logissimus Capitis
Magnus Large Adductor Magnus
Major Larger Pectoralis Major
Minor Smaller Pectoralis Minor
Vastus Huge Vastus Lateralis
  Shape of Muscles  
Deltoid Triangular Deltoid
Trapezius Trapezoid Trapezius
Serratus Serrated Serratus Anterior
Rhomboid Diamond shaped Rhomboid Major
Orbicularis Circular Orbicularis Occuli
Pectinate Comb-like Pectinius
Piriformis Pear shaped Piriformis
Platys Flat Platysma
Quadratus Square Quadratus Femoris
Gracilis Slender Gracilis
  Action of Muscles  
Flexor Decreases a joint angle Flexor Carpi Radialis
Extensor Increases a joint angle Extensor Carpi Radialis
Abductor Moves a bone away from the mid-line Abductor Pollicis Longus
Adductor Moves a bone closer to the mid-line Adductor Longus
Levator Elevates a body part Levator Scapulae
Depressor Depresses a body part Depressor Labii Inferioris
Supinator Turns the palm anteriorly Supinator
Pronator Turns the palm posteriorly Pronator Teres
Sphincter Decreases the size of an opening External Anal Sphincter
Tensor Makes a body part rigid Tensor Fasciae Latae
Rotator Rotates a bone around its longitudinal axis Rotatore
  Number of Origins  
Biceps Two Origins Biceps Brachii
Triceps Three Origins Triceps Brachii
Quadriceps Four Origins Quadriceps Femoris
  Location of a Muscle  
Example: Temporalis is a muscle near the Temporal bone
  Origin and Insertion of a Muscle  
Example: Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) – originates on the sternum and clavicle and inserts in the mastoid process of the temporal bone