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From French anatomie, from Latin anatomia, from Ancient Greek *ἀνατομία (*anatomía), from ἀνατομή (anatomḗ, dissection, literally cutting up), from ἀνά (aná, up) + τέμνω (témnō, to cut, incise). By surface analysis, ana- +‎ -tomy. Doublet of ottomy.


  • enPR: ənăt'-ə-m(ē), IPA(key): /əˈnæt.ə.mi/
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anatomy (countable and uncountable, plural anatomies)

  1. The art of studying the different parts of any organized body, to discover their situation, structure, and economy.
    Synonym: dissection
  2. The science that deals with the form and structure of organic bodies; anatomical structure or organization.
    Hyponyms: anthropotomy, phytotomy, zootomy
    Animal anatomy is also called zootomy; vegetable anatomy, phytotomy; and human anatomy, anthropotomy.
    • 1695, C[harles] A[lphonse] du Fresnoy, translated by John Dryden, De Arte Graphica. The Art of Painting, [], London: [] J[ohn] Heptinstall for W. Rogers, [], →OCLC:
      Let the muscles be well inserted and bound together, according to the knowledge of them which is given us by anatomy.
  3. (countable) A treatise or book on anatomy.
  4. (by extension) The act of dividing anything, corporeal or intellectual, for the purpose of examining its parts.
    Synonym: analysis
    the anatomy of a discourse
    the anatomy of love
    Burton's famous treatise, "The Anatomy of Melancholy"
  5. (colloquial) The form of an individual.
    I went to the Venice beach body-building competition and noticed the competitor from Athens, and let me tell you, that's what I call classic Greek anatomy.
  6. (euphemistic) The human body, especially in reference to the private parts.
    • 2015 September 20, Michael Ashcroft, Isabel Oakeshott, “Drugs, debauchery and the making of an extraordinary Prime Minister: For years rumours have dogged him. Now, the truth about the shockingly decadent Oxford days of the gifted Bullingdon boy”, in Daily Mail[1]:
      His extraordinary suggestion is that the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal's mouth.
    • 2016 December 28, Jessica Taylor, “11 Times Donald Trump Looked Like He Was Done For”, in NPR[2]:
      On the debate stage days later, Trump wanted all of America to know there was "no problem" with the size of his hands — or any other part of his anatomy.
  7. (archaic) A skeleton, or dead body.
  8. The physical or functional organization of an organism, or part of it.
    • 2013 August 3, “The machine of a new soul”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      The yawning gap in neuroscientists’ understanding of their topic is in the intermediate scale of the brain’s anatomy. Science has a passable knowledge of how individual nerve cells, known as neurons, work. It also knows which visible lobes and ganglia of the brain do what. But how the neurons are organised in these lobes and ganglia remains obscure.


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