Pardon Me! Learn the Formal Words for Bodily Functions

2 min read

No matter how normal it is for our bodies to do certain things, some of these functions elicit laughs or perhaps embarrassment. Unglamorous and underappreciated, bodily functions move things along and remind us that we're all human. Maybe your mother taught you it wasn't polite to discuss such things, but maybe she'll let it slide if you use the official medical terminology for these bodily functions.


The word for laughter sounds very much like a serious condition, but it has Latin roots, like many medical terms. From the word cachinnare, use of "cachinnation" in English began in the early 18oos. Try using it with your friends, and it might just provoke even more giggles.


This is the real name for a small action we call "coughing." The Latin form of the word is tussis, and we refer to the medical condition of whooping cough as "pertussis."  


From the infinitive verb "micturate," this is the proper name for the action of urinating. The English form of the word comes from the Latin micturitum, and it sounds much more polite than some of the other terms used to describe this regular occurrence.  


We masticate our food for sustenance, but there's a simpler verb to describe this action: "chew." The word "masticate" was introduced to the English language in the 1500s and comes from the Greek verb mastikhan, meaning "gnash the teeth."


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 it entered English in the late 19th century, a more polite era.


Now considered obsolete, this is the proper word for the act of flatulence, AKA farting. The proper name for the gas in the stomach and intestines is "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.


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.


Burping is considered impolite, but saying you’ve eructed may make you feel better about belching in public. If using Latin makes you feel more refined, you can claim you suffer from ructabundus if you can't stop belching after a good meal.


No need to gobble down your food. This word is a more elegant way to describe swallowing food. 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 word: "Peristalsis" is the technical term to describe the movements in your esophagus that facilitate swallowing.


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

You Might Also Like:

Chat bubbles backgroundDaily QuestionWhat verb means to create a symbolic image?

Start defining your knowledge

Get daily words and quizzes sent straight to your inbox!

By subscribing to Word Genius you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.