When referring to skeletons/ bone building, can "articulate" be used as a verb? I came across this sentence, and it is not clear to me. Does it mean "Assembled"?

Some skeletons are articulated with wires, metal pieces, and other things.

  • I take it to mean "some skeletons incorporated wires, metal pieces and other things in their reconstruction to allow for the joints in the skeleton to remain articulated: i.e. they are assembled using these extra materials in such a way that the joints can still move" – Ronald Jul 9 '17 at 3:59
  • "Articulated" in that sense means "assembled in a manner that allows the joints to move" so... Sorta? You're missing most of the meaning that way. – The Nate Jul 9 '17 at 6:24

The verb to articulate has two distinct meanings according to the OED, one meaning referring to language and the other to the assembly of component parts by means of joints. Both meanings are related to the word article since the language meaning describes the ability of a person or group to present the points of an argument, complaint etc in a logical manner separating out the points; and the assembly meaning specifically refers to the joining together of separate components.

The "joining together" meaning, however, is used in very specific circumstances: it is used in anatomy as in the question and in this reference to refer to skeletal joints with a large degree of freedom such as the elbow, finger or hip joints, but not to the joints such as those between the bones forming the skull and pelvis which are almost, if not completely, rigid. It is also used in mechanical engineering in a similar way, referring to the joining of two parts in such a way that movement is possible between them. Examples are hinges and universal joints.

The most common engineering use is articulated vehicles such as buses, trams heavy earth-moving plant and large trucks. The last of these might be unfamiliar to Americans as what the British and Irish refer to as an "articulated lorry" or "artic" is referred to in the US as a "semi-trailer rig" or "semi".

In answer to the question the verb "to articulate" could mean to "to assemble" but only in terms of assembling moving parts; however it is rarely, if ever used in this way. Kace36's comment on Xanne's answer is perfectly correct in saying that the verb is most often used in its language sense.


The search term that will help is "joint articulation" or "articulated joint."

From dictionary.com:

articulated joint


  1. Anatomy. a flexible joint.

  2. an artificial appendage, limb, or the like, especially one activated and controlled by a computer, as the mechanical arm of a robot.

  3. a device by which two or more sections of a vehicle are linked together so > as to allow greater capacity, flexibility of movement, etc.

In a way, "articulated" does mean assembled, but I wouldn't use assembled as a substitute. Articulation refers to the kinds of attachments that allow a joint to move (or be moved, in the case of a skeleton).

In medicine an articulation is a joint, as follows:

An articulation, or joint, is usually formed of fibrous connective tissue and cartilage. Joints are grouped according to their motion: a ball and socket joint; a hinge joint; a condyloid joint (a joint that permits all forms of angular movement except axial rotation); a pivot joint; gliding joint; and a saddle joint.

Medical Definition of Articulation - MedicineNet


  • I agree with @Xanne it may have that meaning in some contexts but I wouldn't use it as a substitution for "assemble". It's typically used in the sense of expressing ideas clearing and coherently (for example, "I'm trying to find a good way to articulate my idea."). – Kace36 Jul 9 '17 at 6:51

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