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Medial vs. Lateral: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Medial refers to being closer to the midline of the body or structure, while Lateral means being farther from the midline.
Medial vs. Lateral

Key Differences

Medial is a term used in anatomy and medicine to describe a position that is nearer to the midline or center of the body. For instance, the nose is medial to the ears. In contrast, Lateral refers to a position that is farther from the midline. The ears are lateral to the nose, indicating their position away from the center of the body.
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In describing body parts, Medial signifies closeness to the imaginary line dividing the body into left and right halves. For example, the thumb is medial to the little finger. Conversely, Lateral is used to indicate that a body part is situated on the side, further from this central line. The little finger is lateral to the thumb.
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Medial also applies to movements or extensions towards the body’s midline. When you move your arms toward your body, this is a medial movement. On the other hand, Lateral movements are those moving away from the midline, such as when arms are extended outwards from the body.
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In terms of injury or condition descriptions, Medial can be used to describe issues closer to the body's center. A medial ankle sprain affects the part of the ankle nearer to the midline. Lateral, however, would describe conditions on the outer aspects, like a lateral knee injury which occurs on the outer side of the knee.
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In certain medical treatments or procedures, Medial might be used to reference an approach or technique closer to the body's midline. Lateral approaches or techniques, in contrast, involve working on or through the sides of the body.
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Comparison Chart

Position

Closer to the body's midline.
Farther from the body's midline.
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Movement

Movement towards the midline.
Movement away from the midline.
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Injury Location

Injuries closer to the center of the body.
Injuries on the outer sides of the body.
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Surgical Approach

Surgical procedures near the midline.
Surgical procedures on the sides of the body.
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Example in Limbs

The thumb is medial compared to other fingers.
The little finger is lateral compared to other fingers.
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Medial and Lateral Definitions

Medial

Pertaining to or situated near the median plane of the body.
The medial eye is closer to the nose than the outer eye.
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Nov 11, 2023

Lateral

Pertaining to the side; away from the midline.
The ears are lateral to the eyes.
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Nov 11, 2023

Medial

Situated in the median plane or in the midline of a body or structure.
The umbilicus is in a medial position on the abdomen.
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Nov 11, 2023

Lateral

Pertaining to or situated at the side of a structure.
The lateral files in the cabinet are arranged along the sides.
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Nov 11, 2023

Medial

Occurring within or belonging to the middle portion.
The medial section of the spinal cord contains vital neural pathways.
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Nov 11, 2023
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Lateral

Of, relating to, or situated at or on the side.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Relating to, situated in, or extending toward the middle; median.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

Of or constituting a change within an organization or hierarchy to a position at a similar level, as in salary or responsibility, to the one being left
Made a lateral move within the company.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

(Linguistics) Being a sound, syllable, or letter occurring between the initial and final positions in a word or morpheme.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(Linguistics) Of, relating to, or being a sound produced by breath passing along one or both sides of the tongue.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

(Mathematics) Being or relating to an average or a mean.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

A lateral part, projection, passage, or appendage.
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Medial

Average; ordinary.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(Football) A lateral pass.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

A voiced stop, such as (b), (d), or (g). Also called media2.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(Linguistics) A lateral sound, such as (l).
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Medial

A sound, letter, or form of a letter that is neither initial nor final.
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Lateral

To execute a lateral pass.
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Medial

(math) Of or pertaining to a mean or average.
Medial allegation
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

To pass (the ball) sideways or backward.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Situated in or near the middle; not at either end.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

To the side; of or pertaining to the side.
Instead of a promotion, I opted for a lateral move to a similar position in the marketing department.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Pertaining to the inside; closer to the median plane of the body or the midline of an organ.
The medial side of the knee faces the other knee, while the outer side of the knee is lateral.
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Lateral

Situated on one side or other of the body or of an organ, especially in the region furthest from the median plane.
The medial side of the knee faces the other knee, while the outer side of the knee is lateral.
A fish senses changes in hydrodynamic pressure with its lateral line.
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Medial

(anatomy) Pertaining to the middle layer of a blood vessel, to its tunica media.
Mönckeberg medial sclerosis
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Lateral

(disease) Affecting the side or sides of the body, or confined to one side of the body.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

(entomology) Of or pertaining to the media and/or the areas of the wing next to it.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(physics) Acting or placed at right angles to a line of motion or strain.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

(phonetics) of a speech sound In the middle of a word.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(UK) Non-linear or unconventional, as in, lateral thinking.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

(phonetics) of a consonant Central: produced when air flows across the center of the mouth over the tongue.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

Pertaining to speech sounds generated by partially blocking the egress of the airstream with the tongue, leaving space on one or both sides of the occlusion for air passage.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

(linguistics) Closer to the addressee.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

An object, such as a passage or a protrusion, that is situated on the side of something else.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Any of various things that occur in the middle.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(linguistics) A sound produced through lateral pronunciation (such as /l/ in lateral).
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

One or more letters that occur in the middle of a word.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(American football) A lateral pass.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Of or pertaining to a mean or average; mean; as, medial alligation.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

(business) An employee hired for a position at the same organizational level or salary as their previous position.
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Medial

See 2d Media.
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Lateral

To move (oneself or something) in a lateral direction.
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Medial

Dividing an animal into right and left halves
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Lateral

(American football) To execute a lateral pass.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Relating to or situated in or extending toward the middle
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

Of or pertaining to the sides; as, the lateral walls of a house; the lateral branches of a tree.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Pertaining to the middle; nearer to the midline.
The heart is medial to the lungs.
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Nov 11, 2023

Lateral

Lying at, or extending toward, the side; away from the mesial plane; external; - opposed to mesial.
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Oct 19, 2023

Medial

Relating to or situated at or extending toward the inner side.
The medial side of the knee faces the other knee.
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Nov 11, 2023

Lateral

Directed to the side; as, a lateral view of a thing.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

A short pass to a receiver who is upfield from the passer, i.e. is behind the passer relative to the direction of the passer's goal.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

A part or extension of something that points sideways, as a drift in a mine that goes to the side from the main one.
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Lateral

To pass the footbal to a receiver who is behind the passer; to make a lateral pass; as, the ball was lateraled to the fullback, who ran it for a touchdown.
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Oct 19, 2023

Lateral

A pass to a receiver upfield from the passer
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Lateral

Situated at or extending to the side;
The lateral branches of a tree
Shot out sidelong boughs
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Lateral

Lying away from the median and sagittal plane of a body;
Lateral lemniscus
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Lateral

Situated at, proceeding from, or directed to a side.
Lateral movement in a dance routine emphasizes side-to-side motion.
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Nov 11, 2023

Lateral

Relating to the sides of an organism or a structure.
The lateral branches of a tree extend outward from the trunk.
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Lateral

Occurring on or directed toward the side.
Lateral thinking involves approaching problems from new angles.
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Nov 11, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is Medial used in medical diagnoses?

Yes, to describe conditions closer to the midline.
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Nov 27, 2023

Can Medial be used to describe movements?

Yes, such as moving the arm towards the body's midline.
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Nov 27, 2023

How does Medial relate to surgical procedures?

It refers to approaches near the midline.
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Nov 27, 2023

What does Medial mean?

Medial refers to being closer to the body's midline.
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Nov 27, 2023

Can you give an example of a Lateral position?

The ears are lateral to the nose.
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What does Lateral mean?

Lateral indicates being farther from the body's midline.
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What is an example of a Medial position in the body?

The nose is medial to the ears.
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Nov 27, 2023

How is Lateral used in describing injuries?

To denote injuries on the body's outer sides.
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Nov 27, 2023

Are the eyes considered Lateral?

Yes, compared to the nose.
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Nov 27, 2023

Does Medial apply to all body parts?

Yes, in relation to the midline.
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Are Lateral injuries common in sports?

Yes, especially in the limbs.
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Nov 27, 2023

Can Lateral refer to external body parts only?

No, it's about position relative to the midline.
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Nov 27, 2023

Can Medial and Lateral change based on perspective?

Yes, depending on the anatomical reference.
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Nov 27, 2023

Is Lateral movement away from the midline?

Yes, like extending arms outwards from the body.
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Nov 27, 2023

Do surgeons use Lateral approaches?

Yes, for procedures on the body's sides.
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Nov 27, 2023

Is the heart Medial in the body?

Yes, it's closer to the midline.
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Nov 27, 2023

Can something be both Medial and Lateral?

Yes, depending on the reference point.
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Nov 27, 2023

How do Medial and Lateral help in anatomy?

They provide precise location descriptions.
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Nov 27, 2023

Is Medial always internal?

Not always; it's relative to the midline.
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Nov 27, 2023

Are Medial and Lateral terms universal in medicine?

Yes, they are standard terms in medical terminology.
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Nov 27, 2023

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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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