noun pl. ar·ter·ies
- Anatomy Any of the muscular elastic tubes that form a branching system and that carry blood away from the heart to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body.
- A major route of transportation into which local routes flow: Traffic was heavy on the central artery.
Origin of artery
Middle English arterie from
Latin artēria from
Greek artēriā windpipe, artery
; see wer-1
in Indo-European roots.Word History:
The changed meaning of the word artery
provides a glimpse into the history of medical science. The word is derived from the ancient Greek artēriā,
a word originally applied to any of the vessels that emanated from the chest cavity, including arteries, veins, and the bronchial tubes. The difference in the functions of these vessels was not yet known; because they were all empty in cadavers, early anatomists supposed they all carried air. As medical knowledge advanced, however, students of anatomy realized that arteries carry blood and only the windpipe and bronchial tubes carry air. To specify the windpipe, they coined the phrase artēriā trakheia,
“rough artery,” referring to its rough cartilaginous structure. The adjective trakheia,
“rough,” entered modern English as trachea,
the current medical term for the windpipe.
- An efferent blood vessel from the heart, conveying blood away from the heart regardless of oxygenation status; see pulmonary artery.
- A major transit corridor.
From Old French artaire, from Latin artēria (“windpipe, artery”), from Ancient Greek ἀρτηρία (artēria).