I originally asked this on the Biology site, but someone pointed me towards this site in their answer for a full-on word request stating this site might be more helpful in that regard.

I was talking in an SE chatroom about fingers, and not being a native English speaker, I had to look up the word used for the part of a finger from the tip to the closest knuckle. I came across the word "phalanges", but the Wikipedia article specifically refered to this as phalanx bones, i.e. just the bone and not everything around it. Can this term also be used to describe the bone plus all of the softer parts around it like the muscles, blood vessels, skin and nail? If not, is there a more commonly accepted biological term for the bone plus the soft tissue around it?

so to summarize: is there a a commonly accepted English term for the combination of a phalanx bone and the soft tissue around it that makes up a part of a finger or toe?

Example sentence: The distal [WORD] on my left indexfinger is about an inch long.

Phalanx only applies to the bone. I've tried consulting some online medical dictionaries, to no avail. A compound word would also be acceptable, doesn't necessarily have to be a single word.

  • 2
    Wouldn't the finger bone + soft tissue around it just be the finger (or maybe finger segment)?
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 14:44
  • @Lawrence The finger itself is more than one phalanx. I'm specifically looking for something describing a single bone with the soft tissue around it. Finger segment might work, but I was kinda wondering if there isn't something a bit more... specific, for lack of a better word. Like, I can also call a phalanx a finger bone, but there's a specific term for it. I was wondering if there is a specific "this word is designed to pretty much only be used to describe this part of the body when used in a medical context".
    – Nzall
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 15:53

2 Answers 2


In medicine we call this the phalanx.

Even though technically the term refers to the bone itself, it still describes the sections of the finger.

Phalanges is the plural of phalanx.

The patient has an injury to the soft tissue of the distal phalanx of his 3rd finger.

You could also just call this the distal third of the finger.

In layman's terms we'd just call this region the fingertip or just the end of the finger. The part where the fingerprint is located is the finger pad (I've injured mine and that's what the hand surgeons call it) and the opposite side is the nail bed.

I'm going to cite myself as the source on this as I'm a physician and native speaker of English.

  • Phalanx also applies to any bones of the toes ... correct? In the OP's example sentence, he could state "The ungual phalanx of my left index finger is about an inch long." (Ungual phalanx being a little less cumbersome than "phalanx distalis digitorum manus.")
    – JLG
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 18:48
  • @JLG Correct. But at that point most of us would just say distal third of the finger ....
    – David M
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 18:52

Segment, as in finger segment or segment of the finger seems to be a common term. Certainly I've found papers in medicine, ergonomics and computer graphics using the term.

Differences in Multiple Segment Tremor Dynamics Between Young and Elderly Persons Steven Morrison, Peter Mills, Rod Barrett The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 61, Issue 9, September 2006, Pages 982–990, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/61.9.982 https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/61/9/982/596003

Irwin, C & Radwin, Robert. (2008). A new method for estimating hand internal loads from external force measurements. Ergonomics. 51. 156-67. 10.1080/00140130701526408. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5952075_A_new_method_for_estimating_hand_internal_loads_from_external_force_measurements

C. Schwarz and N. V. Lobo, "Segment-based hand pose estimation," The 2nd Canadian Conference on Computer and Robot Vision (CRV'05), Victoria, BC, Canada, 2005, pp. 42-49. doi: 10.1109/CRV.2005.72 URL: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=1443110&isnumber=31037

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