The anatomy textbook1 I use for my students states that the prefix meta- means "between:"
The metaphyses (me-TAF-i-sez; meta = between; singular is metaphysis) are the regions between the diaphysis and the epiphysis. [my emphasis added]
This sounds reasonable given the explanation. However, I have never seen meta- applied in this manner; more generally, the suffix meta- usually seems to refer to "after."
In fact, Dr. Toby Arnold's Glossary of Anatomy provides the following etymology of the word metaphysis:
metaphysis: Greek meta = after, and physis = growth; hence, the end of the shaft of a bone alongside the epiphysial or growth cartilage [again, my emphasis added]
The latter explanation is somewhat underwhelming, but the etymological usage fits more with my prior experience with meta-.
So, which is it?
Can someone find a reputable source definitively indicating a clear anatomical/physiological explanation for why meta- was used in the case of "metaphysis"?
- A webpage on EnglishLearner.com reports that our earliest usage of the term "metaphysis" came from an obstetrician named William Dorland (1864–1956) in the early 20th century. I couldn;t find additional info.
1. Tortora, G. J. and B. Derrickson. 2014. Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, 14th edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., USA.