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Anatomical Terminology –Origin of body part names: BURSA

Bursa or Bursae ( plural) are fluid filled sacs that normally exist in our body at different anatomical landmarks, usually around bony joints. They form a lubricated cushion for our joints like shoulder, elbows, hip etc. They are flat and the fluid inside is just enough to provide gentle cushioning. If we spend a long time leaning on them ( like the elbow) or kneeling down on a hard surface, they can get inflamed and very painful. If it happens in the knee this is commonly called the housemaid’s knee ( prepatellar bursitis) The bursae can also get inflamed with arthritis and overuse.


The name literally used to mean a wine skin, sac or a purse in Greek. a flat pouch or wineskin that was used to carry wine may have resembled this membranous sac filled with synodal ( joint) fluid must have reminded the anatomists of leather wineskins or pouches depicted in Greek figurines and illustrations.

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