Let's Get Physical: The Body Eclectic: Words For Common Physical Functions

Awake or asleep, conscious or unconscious, there's always a lot going on in our bodies. Some of these words describe processes we can't see, and others are technical names for ordinary actions or occurrences.
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Full list of words from this list:

  1. apnea
    temporary cessation of breathing, especially while sleeping
    The valve connects the mask to a noninvasive ventilator, similar to machines used to treat sleep apnea.Scientific American (Apr 22, 2020)
    Apnoia means "an absence of breathing" in Greek. Sleep apnea is a condition, common among people who snore badly, where they stop breathing periodically while they sleep.
  2. digestion
    the process by which the body breaks down food
    Also found were dozens of gastroliths, or gizzard stones, swallowed by certain animals including some modern birds and crocodilians to aid digestion.Reuters (Jun 3, 2020)
  3. excretion
    the bodily process of discharging waste matter
    The disease spreads through animal-to-animal contact and indirectly through food and soil contaminated with bodily excretions.Washington Times (Jan 6, 2020)
    Ingestion, below, is the act of eating or drinking. Excretion is what happens once your body has used everything it needs from that food and drink.
  4. expectorate
    clear out the chest and lungs
    This reaction is learned from watching other camels, but its more akin to throwing up than expectorating.National Geographic (May 30, 2018)
    If you know that your pectoral muscles are your upper chest, then you have a clue as to the origin of expectorate. In Latin, it means "to make a clean breast," as in "to drive bad feelings from your chest." In the nineteenth century, it became a fancy word for "to spit."
  5. halitosis
    offensive breath
    On the diet, some people experience “keto breath,” a halitosis likely caused by the production of acetone, which is one of the ketone bodies.Seattle Times (Jan 8, 2020)
    While halitus is Latin for "breath," halitosis is a modern word, dating to the late nineteenth century. The addition of the Greek suffix -osis suggests a disease or disorder.
  6. ingest
    take food, drink, or some other substance into the body
    Plastic bags and materials are ingested by endangered sea turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish.The Guardian (Jun 11, 2020)
  7. integument
    an outer protective covering
    Against this is the fact that most dinosaur integument impressions show scaly, ‘reptilian’ skin.The Guardian (Jun 7, 2017)
    Your skin, hair, and fingernails are all part of your integument: your outer layer.
  8. masticate
    bite and grind with the teeth
    Later, director Nick Murphy forces us to witness Scrooge eating in silence, masticating every spoonful . . . to lend context to that the line about the undigested bit of beef, I guess?Salon (Dec 19, 2019)
    Masticare is the Latin verb for "to chew."
  9. mitosis
    the process by which a cell divides into two smaller cells
    Chromosomal instability is a hallmark of cancer that results from ongoing errors in chromosome segregation during mitosis.Nature (Jan 16, 2018)
    When a cell begins to divide, the nucleus stretches out into a long, skinny form before splitting in two. Mito- means "thread" in Greek, and -osis is a suffix used to denote processes, so mitosis was the word coined in German in 1882 to describe cell division.
  10. osculate
    The depictions of make-out sessions, with actors seeming to osculate the lens, offer a clinical perspective.The New Yorker (Feb 8, 2019)
    Osculate means "to kiss" in Latin, and in geometry when two curves touch they also osculate.
  11. osmosis
    diffusion of molecules through a semipermeable membrane
    Instead, Cornish Lithium says it will use special filtration techniques called reverse osmosis and ion-exchange to extract and purify lithium compounds from any brine that it finds.Economist (Feb 8, 2018)
  12. peristalsis
    wavelike muscle contractions of the alimentary tract
    This motion mimics how our intestines and esophagus move food around our body — a process known as peristalsis.The Verge (Mar 30, 2018)
  13. regurgitate
    feed through the beak by bringing back swallowed food
    The researchers trained the computer to identify a behavior called trophallaxis, in which honey bees feed their fellow workers by regurgitating food from a pouch called a crop.Science Magazine (Apr 28, 2020)
    Regurgitate literally means "to flow back" in Latin, but in English it's a fancy way to say "barf."
  14. respire
    draw air into, and expel out of, the lungs
    In the 1869 novel The Man Who Laughs, Victor Hugo wrote: “Generations are puffs of breath, that pass away. Man respires, aspires, and expires.”Scientific American (Jan 15, 2019)
Created on June 4, 2020 (updated June 18, 2020)

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