FIPAT - The IFAA Terminologies

The IFAA terminologies are the international standard for the human anatomical sciences, developed and maintained for use in the biomedical sciences, health care professions and general public. The terms and the hierarchies in the terminologies for the adult human body are primarily based on its structure. They are informed by, but not determined by, function, biochemistry, gene expression, developmental history or comparative anatomy.


The history of anatomical terminology is, unsurprisingly, highly complex, extending back thousands of years. The IFAA terminologies are descendants of the Nomina Anatomica [1895; 1935] produced by the Anatomische Gesellschaft (the German-language anatomical society). Up to 2017, IFAA terminologies (Nomina Anatomica [1955, 1961, 1966, 1977, 1983], Terminologia Anatomica [1998], Terminologia Histologica [2008] and Terminologia Embryologica [2013] were published in book form. Thereafter, publication of the terminologies has been web-based, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-ND 4.0), to encourage their free distribution and use.

Current Status

Terminologia Anatomica (TA): The second edition (TA2) was published online in 2019 and has been approved by the IFAA General Assembly. In the preparation of TA2, particular emphasis was given to expanding the content of clinical anatomical terms, to enhance the relevance of FIPAT for the clinical community.
Terminologia Histologica (TH): TH, the successor of Nomina Histologica, the international terms for human cytology and histology, was published in 2008 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. The Histology working group is currently working on a revision (TH2).
Terminologia Embryologica (TE): The second edition (TE2) was published online in 2017, and was approved by the IFAA General Assembly in 2019. Many new terms introduced apply to congenital anomalies (the principal clinical component of TE), to the developing CNS (in the light of recent advances in molecular neuroscience) and to the stem cell field.
Terminologia Neuroanatomica (TNA): TNA, a new specialist terminology for neuroanatomy, was published online in 2017, and was approved by the IFAA General Assembly in 2019. It was developed to provide more detailed terminology of the gross and microscopic anatomy of the brain and spinal cord, their coverings and associated blood vessels.
Terminologia Oroanatomica (TOA): A working group was established in 2014 to develop a specialist terminology for oral anatomy that would be useful for oral biologists and dental professionals. It deals with the gross anatomy and histology of the oral cavity.
Terminologia Anatomica Anthropologica (TAA): A working group was established several years ago to develop a specialist terminology for physical anthropology. Drafts of sections on bones and teeth of human and hominid species have been circulated for review by members of FIPAT and consultants.


Each publication in its simple, paginated format is structured to enable easy interpretation. It begins with a Preface, setting out the objectives and explaining the organization and hierarchy, and a User Guide to ensure unequivocal interpretation. The publications are revised and edited on a continuing basis. However, FIPAT may decide to publish, at given intervals, a frozen, dated version that would correspond to the previous “editions” of the Terminologies.

Consistent with the new, flexible nature of FIPAT, and in order to facilitate continual discussion and updating, the following set of Term Categories is used:

  • Official term (a unique Latin name for an entity);
  • Equivalent terms in other languages (e.g., the English equivalent that is provided in the IFAA terminologies);
  • Synonyms in Latin and other languages (these terms should also be unique, but secondary to the official term and its equivalent);
  • Related terms (terms in Latin and other languages that have been used as synonyms, but have not been accepted by FIPAT as synonyms for various reasons); and
  • Candidate term (a unique Latin name for an entity, either as a replacement for a previously named entity or for an entity being proposed for recognition).

Revised and new FIPAT documents are to be for the time being constituted in 7 columns, replacing the 3-column arrangement which was standard in the previous, book-form publications, Terminologia Anatomica (Thieme 1998), Terminologia Histologica (Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins 2006) and Terminologia Embryologica (Thieme 2013). This arrangement enables unequivocal identification of the official Latin and English terms, of common synonyms in both English and Latin, and of related terms in Latin and English. The following is the revised format:

  • Column 1: Unique identification number
  • Column 2: Offical term
  • Column 3: Latin synonyms
  • Column 4: UK English equivalent term
  • Column 5: US English equivalent term
  • Column 6: English synonyms
  • Column 7: Other (Related terms, references to endnotes, etc.)

Supplementary columns may be added ad libitum to deal with other languages. They will form linguistic triplets:

  • Column A: Unique equivalent in other language
  • Column B: Synonyms in other language
  • Column C: Related terms in other language

R. Shane Tubbs
Chair, FIPAT
January 2020


International Federation of Associations of Anatomists

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