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I'm looking for a word that fills in the missing blank in the following progression:

  • Arms and legs are collectively called extremities
  • Hands and feet are collectively called _______
  • Fingers and Toes are collectively called digits

The word "extremities" can be used to mean just the hands and feet (as in this related question), but it is more commonly used to mean not only the hands and feet, but also the rest of the limbs. If I used that term, I would need to also clarify which sense I meant, thus making it useless as a single word.

Is there a word that means the organs which the digits attach to, but does not also mean the entirety of the limbs? Specifically, including the parts of the arms starting at the wrist, and parts of the legs starting at the ankles, but in no context meaning the forearms, thighs, etc?

(In the context I'm trying to use this word, including the digits would be ideal but not required.)

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There are differences of opinion on the strict definitions of some of the terms. So far, the closest I've come to an authoritative source is the Macmillan dictionary; Limbs and appendages.

Arms and legs are not extremities. The consensus (Macmillan and other discussion I found) is that limb is the appropriate term.

Hands and feet are appendages (although that term isn't limited to hands and feet). Some sources, such as Collins and some online discussions, refer to hands and feet as "extremities", but Macmillan applies that term to fingers and toes (again a generic term not exclusive to specific body parts).

Interesting extraneous information: Hands and feet are both "feet", the front feet are called hands in primates. So if you want a term exclusive to hands and feet, you could use feet.

Fingers and toes are "digits", as you listed. According to Macmillan, fingers and toes would be classified as "extremities" (a less specific term).

It would be good to get some input from someone with appropriate biological education. The trouble with relying on dictionaries is that you don't know what underlying source the information represents. It could be extracted from authoritative scientific sources, or it could represent usage by some people in related areas, or it could reflect popular usage.

  • Nice answer. Oddly, two common names that might seem to apply to all four appendages on four-footed animals—paws and hooves—have come to be associated, respectively, with hands only and feet only when applied to human beings' extremities. – Sven Yargs May 30 '17 at 0:28

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