Anatomy Mnemonics

I’m officially done with anatomy, so I probably won’t be updating this page again until Step 1 studying.  You may also want to check out advice on memorizing origins and insertions for musculoskeletal anatomy.


Grey/White Rami Communicantes:  White ramis contain pre-synaptic fibers, grey contain post-synaptic fibers.  Lord of The Rings mnemonic:  Saruman the White prejudiced, while Gandalf the Grey = older, wiser (post).

Upper Limb, Back & Chest

Branches of the Thoracoacromial Artery:  Cadavers Are Dead People
(Clavicular, Acromial, Deltoid, Pectoral)

The pectoralis minor is innervated by 1 nerve, the major is innervated by 2 (because it’s bigger.  This makes sense.) – the lateral pectoral nerve and the medial pectoral nerve.  Remember that the medial pectoral nerve is the one that innervates both muscles because medial has an ‘m’ just like major and minor.

Posterior forearmLongus, brevis, longus, brevis, longus.
(First, find brachioradialis. Then, moving medially, the muscles are in that order. As you would expect, the carpi radialis’ come first [ECR longus, then ECR brevis], while the thumb muscles come last. Abductor Pollicis is in the middle, and for symmetry, the last two are the flexor Pollici [Abductor Pollicis Longus, then flexor pollicis brevis, then flexor pollicis longus.])

Hold your arm in anatomical position.  Now raise it straight out:  The basilic v. is the basement, the cephalic v. is the ceiling.

Carpal bones, popular:  Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle. (Lots of T’s I know, but just remember that the trapezium is near the thumb.  [Rhyming!]

Carpal bones, alternate:  So Long The Pinky, Here Comes The Thumb. (This one goes in a circle instead of two lines, so it’s honestly the one I use.  It’s just easier.  Start with the Scaphoid and move towards the pinky – saying goodbye to it on “pinky” [pisiform] because at that point the circle moves back towards the thumb.  Nice and descriptive.)

Thoracic Cavity

Semilunar valve cusps:  AP, AP:  Both aortic and pulmonary arteries have 3 valves – left, right, and then either an anterior or a posterior.  The aortic has the posterior, the pulmonary has the anterior – just put the A’s and P’s together.

Coronary ArteriesLCA = Left Coronary Artery.  It’s not just the abbreviation, it’s also the branching pattern (Left –> Circumflex + Anterior interventricular).  Right = RPM, as in “rotations per minute” (Right –> Posterior interventricular + Marginal).

Important things goin’ on at the Sternal AngleFor 5 simple seconds the tracks bifurcate at the arch. (Think of riding a subway).

– “For 5” = Between T4 and T5
– “SIMple” = superior mediastinum becomes inferior mediastinum (superior –> inferior mediastinum)
– “seconds” = Second ribs articulate with the sternum.
– “tracks bifurcate” = trachea bifurcates into bronchi
– “at” = arteries, too (pulmonary arteries bifurcate too)
– “arch” = aortic arch begins and ends.
Not the snappiest mnemonic in the world, but for all the stuff happening at the sternal angle, it’s worth committing it to memory now so you can sound super smart later.

Thorax sidednessR.S.T. (as in, alphabetical order. RST): the Right Side has the Tricuspid (heart). the Right Side has Three lobes (lungs), the Right Side is a Trap (right bronchi is where food/foreign bodies get stuck).

(Note:  in “The Right Side has Three Lobes” – the “h” stands for “horizontal fissure”.  i.e. while both sides have oblique fissures, only the right has a horizontal one.)

Alternative for AV Valves:  LAB RAT.  Left Atrium =Bicuspid, Right Atrium = Tricuspid.  Snappier, but I prefer RST since it’s multipurpose (see above).

Levels at which structures pierce the diaphragm:  I ate (8) 10 Eggs At 12. (I 8= inferior vena cava pierce at T8, 10 Eggs= Esophagus pierces at T10 , At 12 = Aorta pierces at T12)

Abdomen & Pelvis

Small Intestine Features:  The ileum has more arcades and shorter vasa recta, the jejunum has fewer arcades but longer vasa recta.  You can remember this because “ileum” is earlier in the alphabet than “jejunum”, so “i” is assocaited with “a” more than “v” (more arcades, shorter vasa recta), while “j” is associated with more”v” than “a” (fewer arcades, longer vasa recta.)

Liver lobes:  Gallbladder is associated with the quadrate lobe (think GQ magazine).   The blood supply and bile drainage is from the left hepatic a. and v. and left hepatic duct.  (LGBQ!)  The IVC is associated with the caudate lobe, and more generally with the left hepatic vessels, because there is an “i” in both “ivc” and “right”, and a “c” in both “ivc” and “caudate”.

UretersWater goes under the bridge (ductus deferens and uterine A.)

Parasympathetic = Pelvic Splanchnic
Sympathetic = Sacral Splanchnic

Median vs. Medial Umbilical Ligaments:  The Umbilical A. is thinner than the Urachus, just like an l is thinner than n – so Medial = Umbilical A. and Median = Urachus

Head & Neck

Cranial foramina (superior view)Cowboy ROS sits in his saddle with his lasso by his side.

(Find the saddle [literally, “dorsum sellae”]. From top to bottom next to it are Foramen Rotundum, Ovale, and Spinosum [ROS]. Next to the dorsum sellae is the foramen lacerum [lasso]. This is a good mnemonic for orienting yourself.)

Cranial Nerves:  ” Oh, oh, oh to touch and feel very good vaginas and hymens.”  (To remember which are sensory, motor, or both, use “some say marry money, but my brother says big boobs matter more.”)

Pterygoid muscles:  The lateral pterygoid is above the medial pterygoid – alphabetical order.  Action-wise, remember that Lateral Lowers. (The lateral pterygoid is the only muscle that opens the mouth/lowers the mandible.  Although, to be fair, it actually does this by protracting the mandible – once the mandible is protracted, it lowers naturally by gravity.)

Suprahyoid muscles:  Mylohyoid fibers go laterally, while geniohyoid fibers are more straight up-and-down.  Picture someone saying, “Miley Cyrus… eeeeh.” while making a distasteful motion across their throat.  For geniohyoid, think “prayer hands”.  Then remember that genies are deep, while Miley Cyrus is superficial.*

Tensor muscles:  There are 2 of them (tensor veli palitini, tensor tympani). Ten divided by 2 = 5, so they’re innervated by CN5.  (specifically V3, since that’s the only motor branch.)

Petrosal nerves vs. Palatine nerves: (Greater and deep petrosal nerves are CN7 and become the nerve of the pterygoid canal.  Lesser petrosal nerve is CN9.  Palatine nerves are from CN5 (V2) ):

Just remember that old pre-teen heavy-petting game called “7 minutes in heaven” (pet = 7).  It is pterrifying to think of kids playing that.  (Pterygoid.)

But if you did well in that game, you might just give your pal a high five.  (Pal = 5).

Ocular nerves:  The nerves that don’t go through the tendinous ring are LeFT out.  (Lacrimal, Frontal, Trochlear.)  All of the others pass through the ring.

External Carotid A. Branches:  Some Anatomists Like Freaking Out Poor Med Students.  (Superior laryngeal, ascending pharyngeal, lingual, facial, occipital, posterior auricular, maxillary, and superficial temporal.  Keeping in mind that the exact branching pattern can be a little fudgey, so you have to look to where they go…)

20 thoughts on “Anatomy Mnemonics

  1. Hey,
    I love what you’ve got here but noticed an error of the carpal bones. Trapezium is near the thumb, triquetral/triquetrum is not.
    Otherwise your mnemonic and resource pages have been really helpful for me 🙂

  2. to pad out the penultimate one (and this one is only advised for your adult readers):
    gentlemen Point and Shoot, erection is governed by the Parasympathetic system, ejaculation by the Sympathetic system.

  3. love it! so useful. Just wondering with the branches of the external carotid, in australia we learn it as superior thyroid not superior laryngeal… is that just a difference in naming?

  4. also a good one… for the branches of the axillary artery in order:
    Screw The Lawyer, Save A Patient

    S = Superior thoracic artery
    T = Thoraco-acromial artery
    L = Lateral thoracic artery

    S = Subscapular artery
    A = Anterior humeral circumflex artery
    P = Posterior humeral circumflex artery

    your blog is amazing!

    • You can also use “She Tastes Like Sweet Apple Pie”.
      1st order
      She – (The female is “superior”)

      2nd order
      Tastes (gives rise to Cadavers Are Dead People)

      3rd order
      Sweet (gives rise to circumflex scapular, which is located in the triangular space)
      Pie (Located in the Quadrangular space)

      The first branch of the brachial artery located under the posterior circumflex is the profunda brachi, which is located in the Triceps Hiatus.

  5. Dear Mr. Potential,
    or is it Dr. Potential now?!
    Nice collection of mnemonics! Just wanted to let you know of a mistake on the posterior forearm Longus-Brevis-Longus-Brevis-Longus. The last 2 are extensors, not flexors.

  6. This, of course, is the headline, like my headline – “3 Rules for Writing Articles”. Although this takes a specific period and mental faculties up-front, it tramlines the relax in the procedure.

  7. For the posterior forearm is it not Abductor Pollicis Longus followed by the EXTENSOR Pollicis Longus/Brevis? Mnemonic still works though and great blog.

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