The real names of these bodily functions

2 min read

No matter how normal it is for our bodies to do certain things, some of these functions elicit laughs and even embarrassment. We’ve even given some bodily functions names that evoke their perceived hilarity. Unglamorous and underappreciated, bodily functions move things along and keep us all humble.

But what are these reflexes really called? You’ll be surprised to know that certain reactions in our bodies have quite fancy names. Here’s a look at some of them.


From the infinitive verb micturate, this is the proper name for the need to pee. The English form of the word comes from the Latin micturitum. And it sounds much fancier than some of the other terms we use to describe this daily occurrence.  


The word for laughter sounds very much like a serious condition, but it also has Latin roots. From the word cachinnare, use of this word in English began in 1824. Try using it with your friends, and it might just provoke even more giggles. Don't say we didn't warn you.


We masticate our food for sustenance, but most of us use a simplified verb to describe this: chew. The word masticate was introduced to the English language in 1562 and comes from both Greek and Latin verbs that mean “to soften or reduce pulp by kneading or crushing.”


This is the real name for a small action we call coughing. A person who can’t stop coughing is known as being tussive. The Latin form of the word is tussis, and we still refer to the medical name for whooping cough as pertussis.  


From the Greek emein, this is the proper name for the act of vomiting. If it sounds like an elegant way to describe a somewhat gross bodily function, it’s because its use in English was first documented in 1847, a much more proper era.


Now considered obsolete, this is the proper word for the act of flatulence. The real name of the gasses that lead to flatulence are called flatus, which is why the term shifted. But it might be time for a comeback if you feel the need to perform this bodily function discreetly.


Burping is considered impolite, but saying you’ve eructed can make you feel better about belching in public. If you had existed during the Roman Empire and couldn’t stop eructing, they’d say you suffer from ructabundus.


This word is a more elegant way to describe swallowing food. The first-ever use of this word in English was in 1650, and like many other words on this list, it comes from Latin. The word glutton a person who eats in excess — is closely related to deglutition. Bonus: peristalsis is fancy word describing the movements in your esophagus that facilitate swallowing.


If you prefer to glisten rather than sweat, then you'll love this poetic word, which refers to perspiring. The term comes from the Greek diaphorein. Medical experts today use this term to describe sweat produced as a side effect to a drug.


You may not use this word every day but you definitely perform this action daily. Pandiculation is the real name for yawning, stretching and other movements you make when you’re tired or have just woken up.

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