If I drew a vertical line from my head to my toes, my left and right halves would be bilaterally symmetric. What do you call a horizontal division? If I drew a line at my waist that separates my legs from my "top half", how would I refer to those halves? Cranial/Caudal? Superior/Inferior?

Thank you.


1 Answer 1


To specifically divide a (human) body you would need to draw a plane. The plane you are referring to is called transverse, axial or horizontal plane (they are synonyms). You can't go wrong if you say that this plane divides you into superior and inferior part (those are used as directions in the body).

Cranio-caudal is also used to refer to direction in biology. Cranial refers to the head (skull) and caudal refers to the tail. Generally when we stand up our head is above our tailbone, but some might mistake caudal with posterior (dorsal) direction (although that wouldn't be correct, superior-inferior is a less ambiguous option in humans). Cranio-caudal is mostly used in embryology and sometimes radiology.

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Images from:


Just to be clear, although in two-legged animals, like us humans, cranio-caudal is actually top-bottom, in four-legged animals (i.e. quadrupeds), that's quite different. Have a look at this picture:

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Or read more at: The virtual biology labs (courtesy of ermanen)

  • I was writing an answer along the same line but stopped after your great answer. (+1) But I was also going to mention that superior/anterior is usually used for human anatomy and cranial/caudal is usually used for quadruped animals. Maybe you can add some more details in your answer. Here is the relevant link: bio.rutgers.edu/~gb102/lab_8/8i3m_terminology.html
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 3:17
  • @ermanen Thanks! The link is great, I could play for hours with those interactive immages :-)
    – Lucky
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 4:06
  • Question, which half do the hands belong to? These charts show the transverse plain cutting through the hands, but from a developmental perspective I'd imagine the hands are considered to belong to the same body half as the arms.
    – herisson
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 4:52
  • @sumelic technically hands belong to the part they are attached to, so superior. But generally, to describe the hands you would say that they are the distal part of the arm, hence distal part of the body (whereas shoulder is the proximal part). I think that such a specific question (not just about general terminology, but about referring to the position of a specific body part) would fit biology SE as well. I think this one might answer it: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/31692/…
    – Lucky
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 5:17

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