Anatomical terminology, which had become chaotic by the nineteenth century, was codified in the BNA of 1895, when some 5,000 terms were carefully selected from among approximately 50,000 names. The BNA and its three major revisions (BR, INA, PNA) are here reviewed and placed in historical perspective. It is emphasized that many anatomical terms are very ancient and that the various nomenclatures are not ‘new terminologies’ but rather, for the most part, selections of already existing names. This can be seen clearly in the naming of the cranial nerves. Another example, the carpal and tarsal bones, is analysed in detail. Of the 8 carpal bones, for instance, the current names for 7 of them are those proposed by Henle in 1855. All the nomenclatures are, as they should be, in Latin, but it is understood that translations of many terms into other languages are necessary. Although views pro and con have been expressed, current usage favours the erect posture and the anatomical position as a basis, as well as the elimination of eponyms. In both teaching and research, the Nomina has been of great benefit in reducing drastically the number of unnecessary synonyms and in providing a coherent, internationally accepted system that is now the standard in anatomical textbooks. Hence, further use of the Nomina should be encouraged.

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