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Difference Between Anatomy And Physiology

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A lot of times, one word is thought to be the same as the other, when in actual sense, they are not. They may have bits of similarities, but when it comes to their basic definitions, their differences become quite obvious. Two of such words that we would be discussing in this piece are anatomy vs physiology. They are often used when describing the parts of a biological component like the human body.

To show how these two words differ from one another, we would be taking you through their definitions, the similarities, as well as the differences between the two.

Definition of anatomy

Anatomy is defined as the discipline that deals with the structure and identity of body parts. When it is about the human body, it is referred to as “human anatomy”. The word, anatomy, stems from Greek, meaning “to cut apart”; which does not come as a surprise considering the need to dissect a dead body in order to do a proper study of both the internal and external tissues.

This discipline is a wide one that can be analyzed not just in dead bodies, but also in living bodies depending on the purpose and depth of the analysis. In some cases, there is a need to employ the use of instruments like a microscope in order to understand the system, organs, tissues, and even cells. to that effect, it is obvious that this discipline deals with the most fundamental study of the structure and identification of the human body.

A difference between physiology and anatomy can be seen in the sub-types of anatomy, amidst other differences. The types include the following:

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  • Gross anatomy: This is the study of those structures and identities of the body that can be viewed and observed with the eyes. The more scientific term for this is “macroscopy”. This type of study is aimed at bringing to light every possible information about a body part as far as can be seen with the eyes. This type of study entails either to cut open (invasive), not to cut open (non-invasive), or to do both depending on the situation. The use of the dissection technique is quite common in this type of study;
  • Microscopic anatomy: This is the study of the structures and identities of the body parts that are too small to be seen and observed with the human eyes. Such body parts are referred to as microscopic, and the use of a microscope is employed in this case. The most common process employed in this sub-type of study usually involves staining a piece of tissue and then studying it under an effective microscope. This tool would magnify the specimen multiple time over to make it sensibly visible enough for the human eye to make anything out of it.

Definition of physiology

Physiology is defined as the study of the functions of different body parts to understand how they work and why. The term comes from the Greek words “physis” and “logos”, which can be interpreted using different words like “origin” or “nature of”; logos, on the other hand, can be interpreted as “the study of”.

As a way of showing the difference between anatomy and physiology, here are the sub-types of physiology:

  • Developmental – This study tracks what changes in a biological organism as a result of development, its functions, and how it changes ;
  • Animal – This is the sub-study that deals with animals and everything that contributes to their being right from inception to death;
  • Comparative – The main focus of this study is the compare and contrast to see the physiological relationship between two organisms or more;
  • Plant – This is about every developmental process of plants, how to keep them healthy and what to avoid in order to maintain them in good health;
  • Practical – The aim of this sub-type is to make the study of physiology as practical as possible, and implemented in the required walks of life;
  • Microscopic – This deals with the study of organisms that are generally too small to be seen and observed with naked eyes. An integral part of this type of study is the microscope.

Main differences between anatomy vs physiology

Here is a tabular representation of the difference between anatomy and physiology for easier understanding. Definition The discipline that deals with the structure and identity of body parts Study the functions of different body parts to understand how they work and why Aims Identifying the different parts of the body structure Understanding the roles of different parts of the body. Can be identified with Living and dead bodies Living bodies only. Sub-types Gross and microscopic Microscopic, practical, plants, animal, comparative, and developmental

Having come this far, you should be able to answer the question – what is the difference between anatomy and physiology? The first addressed the structure and identity of the parts of a body, while the latter is about the functions of the parts of the body.

They have a few similarities since they all deal with parts of a body; also, one of the procedures of study involves the use of a microscope in both cases. That notwithstanding, these disciplines address different aims and benefits.

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Difference Between Anatomy And Physiology. (2021, August 04). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from
“Difference Between Anatomy And Physiology.” Edubirdie, 04 Aug. 2021,
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