What is the soft part of the palm called in English?

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What is the soft part of the palm called in English?

I don't know the name even in my native language, so I cannot look it up in the dictionary.

photo of a palm, a red circle is drawn over the fleshy section, at the base of the thumb

Judicious Allure

Posted 2017-05-23T05:52:19.980

Reputation: 24 598

2Might be an idea to hear why you needed this term. In which case users would know if you were specifically looking for a technical or slangy term. – Mari-Lou A – 2017-05-23T11:31:05.417

TIP: Google "hand anatomy" and you should get all the answers you need. Replace hand, with any part of the human body, and Bob's your uncle!

– Mari-Lou A – 2017-05-23T11:32:36.003

The danish name for it, is the hand-buttocks (hånd balle). Just a bit of FYI. – Clearer – 2017-05-23T13:21:28.560

@Clearer Thanks! I just googled for "butt of the thumb" and added it to my answer. In English, "butt of the hand" seems to refer to the part of the hand just distal to the wrist, running along both the thenar and hypothenar eminences. From my quick look, the phrase appears most common in explaining the rules of boxing.

– Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T13:34:51.223

1@Mari-Lou, Basically before I came here to ask, I googled "hand anatomy" and I found referring for the bones and muscles, nothing to o with what I wanted:) I needed it for a presentation about position of the palm and using one of its parts. – Judicious Allure – 2017-05-23T14:12:23.990

@BenKovitz I would call that the 'heel' of the palm. – JimmyJames – 2017-05-23T16:35:27.750

When I saw this question, I thought "Wow, good question!" and googled for "palm picture words parts fleshy" to see if anything came up. I had no idea how much weirdness lurked in this topic. – Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T23:48:46.887

Answers

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The anatomical term for it is the thenar eminence:

The hand: fingers, creases, and eminences

However, this is a scientific term, known mostly to medical students and doctors. It's not in general use. I had never even heard of it until I started googling just now. A few sources say thenar prominence. If you're wondering, both "eminence" and "prominence" come from a Latin verb meaning to project or stand out, and are often used this way in anatomy. Dictionaries also report thenar as a noun, true to the Greek word (for the whole palm) from which it is taken, but from my quick survey, it appears that today "thenar" is used mainly as an adjective, as in "the thenar crease", "a thenar muscle", "thenar pain", "a thenar pad", "thenar atrophy", and more.*

In common language, it's called the ball of the thumb, the fleshy part of the thumb, the meaty part of the thumb, the base of the thumb, the heel of the thumb, the butt of the thumb, the pulpy part of the thumb, or even the muscley part of the thumb. Since people so rarely talk about it, when people need to refer to it they invent a descriptive phrase on the fly, but often they invent the same phrase. The words "fleshy" and "meaty" suggest its consistency most clearly. People sometimes even independently invent the same word, "muscley". "Muscley" is much rarer than "thenar", and feels awkward and even childish, especially in writing, yet the average person could guess what you meant if you said "the muscley part of your thumb" and would have no idea what you meant if you said "your thenar eminence". (They might take the latter as a compliment.)

Some of these on-the-fly phrases are a little ambiguous, though, since more than one part of the hand on or near the thumb answers to the description, as you can see by googling for those phrases and seeing what people are talking about. This is why doctors and scientists prefer non-vernacular terms taken from Latin or Ancient Greek.

One more term is mount of Venus, which seems to be used only in palmistry. However, outside of palmistry, this term has another meaning, part of a tradition called "landscape pornography".

Pictures from Duke University and this blog.


*Here's my educated guess about what happened (not fully checked out). As "thenar" is a noun in Greek, it was adopted as a noun in Renaissance Latin (e.g. in this translation of a 4th-century Greek medical encyclopedia, where it's defined as "the space between the index finger and the thumb"—not quite the modern meaning). The -ar ending makes it look like a Latin adjective (or an English adjective derived from Latin). It turns out that science and medicine have a lot of occasions for using "thenar" as an adjective, to distinguish various kinds of things: creases, muscles, homologous structures in other animals, etc. So, as the adjectival use gained prominence, its use as a noun atrophied. The noun use is not extinct today—see, for example, here—but its use as a noun seems to have declined starting around 1900, and today "thenar" seems to be most commonly found as a modifier on a noun, most frequently "eminence".

Ben Kovitz

Posted 2017-05-23T05:52:19.980

Reputation: 25 752

2The dictionary gives two meanings for "ball of the thumb", that one and the other end, the fleshy area opposite the nail, and I suspect most people would think of the second one, as more ball-like. – Malvolio – 2017-05-23T06:32:39.633

9+1 for noting that most people don't use the anatomical term in day-to-day speech (which is more than most of the other answers did). Also, I've heard the term heel of the thumb, which I think refers to the same thing. – J.R. – 2017-05-23T09:21:54.790

2It might be a regional/cultural thing - ball of the thumb seems well understood in UK. But I just asked a NZ colleague, who didn't recognise it. – Toby Speight – 2017-05-23T10:20:26.820

@J.R. Thanks, I'll add that. And googling for it just now led me to another that I'd never heard of: "Mount of Venus"! – Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T12:13:29.340

11@BenKovitz "Mount of Venus"? Oh boy, that could lead to some unfortunate misunderstandings... – Luaan – 2017-05-23T12:16:00.147

I've only referred to it on a couple of occasions that I can remember in my entire life, and most recently (when I'd hurt it somehow), I just pointed at it and said "that bit there". As said, even if I knew the term Thenar, it'd have been useless as the other person wouldn't have known, so I'd have still have had to point at it and say "this bit, here". – i-CONICA – 2017-05-23T13:05:45.617

1Great answer. It makes me want to strongly promote usage of the word thenar in everyday conversation. Another nonce-phrase I've heard for this region is the "muscley" part, especially when people are talking about a cramp or other issue that makes it clear that it is a muscle (or rather, group of muscles). It looks ridiculous in print, but gets the idea across. And another anatomical possibility would be something like "the pollicis muscles", since all three muscles there have pollicis in the name, and it's basically Latin for "thumb-related" (but there is one other that's elsewhere). – 1006a – 2017-05-23T14:19:22.213

@1006a Wow, "the muscley part" is a great example of a nonce-phrase and even a nonce-word. I just googled, and it's well attested. I'll add it right now—thanks! I especially like it because it illustrates that English vocabulary and grammar aren't contained in dictionaries and rules. A fluent speaker knows that calling it "the muscular part" isn't as appropriate—though a few people have come up with that, too, when feeling around for a word. Yet it would be hopeless to try to memorize rules in advance for making these nonce words or even for judging which are better. – Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T14:31:43.057

If I heard any of those "of the thumb" phrases before reading this answer, I would not have guessed that they were talking about part of the palm. – user2357112 supports Monica – 2017-05-23T21:52:04.100

1My first thought was "ball of the thumb." In this sense it's analogous to the ball of the foot. On the other hand, some people seem to use "ball of the thumb" to refer to the soft side of the tip of the thumb (the part opposite the thumbnail), which is quite a different part of the hand. – David K – 2017-05-24T00:26:53.337

6

The part you circled is the "base of the thumb", although I don't think of it as soft, more like "fleshy".

Edit: other answers have suggested "thenar", as a shortening of "thenar eminence". The underlying Greek word θέναρ just means the "palm of the hand", but I doubt anyone who is not either a palmist, a speaker of classical Greek, or a hand-surgeon would recognize the word.

Malvolio

Posted 2017-05-23T05:52:19.980

Reputation: 4 979

Thank you. Due to reading your answer by googling "fleshy part of the palm" I found that it is called in English "Thenar" – Judicious Allure – 2017-05-23T06:24:12.247

5

It's called Thenar

Thenar

the soft part of the hand at the base of the thumb

(Cambridge Dictionary)

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user178049

Posted 2017-05-23T05:52:19.980

Reputation: 7 435

BTW, the Cambridge Dictionary says it's a noun and then gives an illustration that uses it as an adjective. I've found about 30 uses of thenar outside of dictionaries now, and so far all have used it as an adjective. – Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T13:39:22.540

1This may be correct, but I'm a 24-year-old American and I've never heard that word before. – Tanner Swett – 2017-05-24T11:14:46.767

3

By googling "fleshy part of the palm" I found that it is called in English "Thenar". Based on "Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary© Farlex 2012" The word thenar is a noun, not an adjective. From these dictionaries it seems that there is no need in the additional word eminence.

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Judicious Allure

Posted 2017-05-23T05:52:19.980

Reputation: 24 598

1Which means it's really called 'fleshy part of palm' – Strawberry – 2017-05-23T11:06:20.557

@Strawberry -- that's not really a criticism. You call your long-distance viewer a "television", don't you, even though that just the same thing in Latin and Greek. – Malvolio – 2017-05-23T16:01:46.317

Regarding whether thenar is an adjective or stands alone as a noun, try looking at real usage. Dictionaries are often wrong, especially about technical or specialized vocabulary. I'm not saying that nobody has ever used thenar as a noun, but it appears to be ordinarily understood as a modifier: the thenar crease, the thenar flap, a thenar muscle, etc. I still haven't found an real example of it used as a noun.

– Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T16:22:19.063

Notice that two lines after the "Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary" says "This word is a noun, not an adjective", it mentions "thenar eminence", where "thenar" is used as an adjective. Farlex is the company that runs thefreedictionary.com. Their material appears to be aggregated somewhat haphazardly, maybe by computer. They sell an ebook called Complete English Grammar Rules. It's not even plausible that anyone has complete rules for English grammar. As always, even when using reputable dictionaries, check real usage.

– Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T16:52:23.067

@Tᴚoɯɐuo Excellent! I figured it must have had some noun usage, which atrophied as the adjectival usage gained prominence. I found another noun usage here. It says that the thenar is the space between the index finger and the thumb, and that Hippocrates seems to have called the whole palm the thenar. It's from 1567, and it's a Latin translation of a 4th-century Greek medical encyclopedia. Following your lead, though, I just found some more-recent noun usage in English; I'll add it to my answer.

– Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-23T22:27:49.043

1

Walt Whitman called it the "chuff of your hand" (in "Song of Myself").

This has always stuck with me, but a bit of searching seems to reveal that, surprisingly, nobody else has called it that.

I at least would have understood "chuff", but not "thenar" (well, not until I saw the other answers, anyway.)

Nick Matteo

Posted 2017-05-23T05:52:19.980

Reputation: 111

Great find! This has to be the best of the nonce phrases. – Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-24T16:49:24.400

1

It is called 'ball of the thumb'.

Aalam

Posted 2017-05-23T05:52:19.980

Reputation: 11