9

When we lie down, the "back part of the body" is in contact with the bed. It includes the heels, the calves, the backside, the back, and the back of the neck, and the back of the head etc.

How do we refer to the entire "back part" of the body?

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    AFAIK there's no unique word or expression in general English. One may only use 'back' in its broader sense. – Kris Oct 11 '14 at 14:37
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    The problem is that, other than "back", most non-technical English words that refer to the "dorsal" side of the body imply the buttocks. Eg, "rear" and "posterior" both would tend to "suggest" the bottocks. And, unfortunately, "back" tends to imply the "dorsal" portion of the body from roughly the waist upward (unless one specifically says "lower back"). Ie, it's pretty much impossible to refer to both the "back" and buttocks with a single word. – Hot Licks Oct 12 '14 at 0:03
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In biology and medicine, the words that describe the sides of a body are posterior, anterior, dorsal and ventral [image source]:

                               drwaing of fish with labels for directions of body directions (posterior, anterior, dorsal, ventral

So, technically, the back side of a human would be called the dorsal side. However, in humans, because posterior also means "back", you can also refer to the posterior side to mean back side:

                                   drwaing of human with same labels

As explained in wikipedia:

In human anatomical usage, anterior refers to the "front" of the individual, and is synonymous with ventral, other than in the head. Similarly, posterior, refers to the "back" of the subject, and is synonymous with dorsal, other than in the head (see Table 3). When referring to the body as a whole the terms "dorsal" and "ventral" are used infrequently in human anatomy. However, they are applied commonly in referring to limb position.

This is because the primate anus is actually on the dorsal side but this is not something that applies to all species. In fact, I can't think of any non-primates with a dorsal anus.

So, in general anatomy, to refer to the back side, you would use dorsal but for humans you can use posterior. Note that the word posterior by itself is a polite way to refer to the buttocks (from dictionary.com):

  1. noun

the hinder parts or rump of the body; buttocks

Therefore, if you want to use posterior to refer to the entire rear side of a human body, qualify it by writing something like the posterior side and not simply the posterior.


Another option which can be used in normal conversation/writing is rear (from the online Merriam-Webster):

1 : the back part of something: as

b : the part of something located opposite its front

Note that, again, I hurt my rear will be understood to mean I hurt my buttocks so you should qualify it:

The rear side of the body.

or

The rear of the body.

But not just

His rear.

  • So in other words "posterior" is just another word for "back" isn't it? – Pacerier Oct 11 '14 at 14:43
  • @Pacerier it depends on the context. He's a pain in the posterior means pain in the ass, but the posterior side of X is the rear side. Posterior by itself and outside the context of anatomy will be understood to mean buttocks. In biology, we use dorsal/ventral for front/rear and anterior/posterior for head/tail. Basically, the posterior is towards the anus and anterior is towards the mouth. – terdon Oct 11 '14 at 14:46
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    In anatomy, dorsal is used quite frequently, and not only for limbs (but is important to identify surfaces and positions of the forearm). Posterior is not. Posterior refers more to quadrupeds. Supine means laying on the back, and is defined as "lying horizontally on the back. Also called dorsal decubitus position, dorsal recumbent." – anongoodnurse Oct 11 '14 at 19:08
  • @medica posterior is used very frequently in anatomy, it just means something else. The anteroposterial axis for example. This is something shared by all metazoans since it is defined during gastrulation. Wikipedia seems to think that in human anatomy, posterior replaces dorsal is that not the case? I know I've never seen it used that way in biology papers but perhaps you medical types do. – terdon Oct 12 '14 at 17:43
  • Hm. Every time I open my mouth, it's a risky undertaking, so I might eat these words. Yes, ant/post is used a lot in embryology because of the whole (old) "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" thing- as though we are fish, and we have tails. Yes, we use posterior in anatomy, e.g. anterior and posterior arteries, views in dissection, etc., but I can't think of many times we use it with surface anatomy. We just don't describe, say, lying on one's posterior. It's been a while, though, since I've taken anatomy, but I use it all the time. My Vet, however, will use posterior way more than me. – anongoodnurse Oct 12 '14 at 19:27
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Medically speaking, you're looking at anterior for the front and posterior for the back.

anterior
2. Located on or near the front of the body in higher animals.

posterior
2. Relating to the caudal end of the body in quadrupeds or the dorsal side in humans and other primates.

The other words are ventral (the belly side) and dorsal (the spine side).

[Citations from The Free Dictionary Online]

  • Does the phrase "the posterior of my body" refer to the entire "back part" of the body including the heels, the calfs, the backside, the back, and the back of the neck, and the back of the head? Or does it only refer to the back of my torso? – Pacerier Oct 11 '14 at 10:45
  • it's difficult to find a word/phrase that immediately means "everything which is dorsal" or "everything which is posterior". You'd have to say something like "all dorsal parts of the human body" or "all rear-facing parts of the body". – Fattie Oct 11 '14 at 11:26
  • @Pacerier: Anterior and posterior refer to the entire body, and to each individual part as well. You can refer to a "posterior" area of the leg, for example. – Robusto Oct 11 '14 at 12:03
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    The problem is that even in anatomy, posterior does not by itself uniquely refer to the posterior part of the body, depending on context it could be the posterior of any part of the body or any object (as you already noted in the comment), and free from context, merely the opposite of 'anterior' as applies in the given context. In plain English, posterior is seldom used to refer to the back of the body, and more often than not, it is understood to refer to the buttocks. – Kris Oct 11 '14 at 14:31
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    In anatomy, dorsal is used quite frequently, and not only for limbs (but is important to identify surfaces and positions of the forearm). Posterior is not. Posterior refers more to quadrupeds. Supine means laying on the back, and is defined as "lying horizontally on the back. Also called dorsal decubitus position, dorsal recumbent." – anongoodnurse Oct 11 '14 at 19:09
2

Backside. To avoid confusion one might say their entire backside, as almost every word that denotes the 'rear' of something has been turned into a slang term for the buttocks. Even Merriam-Webster's formal definition includes posterior as: (n) the part of the body above the legs that is used for sitting; the hinder parts of the body; specifically: buttocks.

back•side (ˈbækˌsaɪd), TFD, n. 1. the rear or back part or view of an object, person, scene, etc.

Photo: lol his backside pedaling us around (tripadvisor.com)


: the back of something, (informal) the buttocks -collinsdictionary.com

  • Sunbathers lie prone to work on their backside. (@medica, use of supine is brilliant) – Mazura Oct 11 '14 at 22:48

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