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Glossary of shape and condition words

Below are most of the special anatomical words that you will find in English-language descriptions of Polydesmida. I have left out words for colour (see the colour page) and words used with the same meaning in everyday English.

Please note: there is nothing wrong or unscientific in using kidney-shaped instead of reniform, or hook-like for uncate. Plain language is always welcome, even in scientific papers!

Also note that millipede specialists often use the prefix sub-. It means roughly, approximately, more or less.


abraded — describes a body surface with its setae rubbed or broken off
acicular — needle-like
aculeate — armed with a sharp point
acuminate — tapering gradually to a point
acute — with sides meeting at a narrow angle
alveolate — full of small cavities, like a honeycomb
apodous — without legs
appressed — close together but not joined
arcuate — curved gradually, like a bow
bacilliform — rod-shaped
bifid — dividing into two branches
bifurcate — dividing into two branches
boletiform — mushroom-shaped
cingulate — girdled or ringed
clavate — club-shaped
cordiform — heart-shaped
coriaceous — leather-like
costate — ribbed
crenate — with a margin made up of low, rounded teeth
crenulate — with a margin made up of very small rounded teeth
cuneate — shaped like a wedge with the thin edge proximal or basal
declivous — sloping downwards
deflexed — bent abruptly downwards
dentate — with a toothed margin
denticulate — finely dentate
divaricate — dividing into two branches; forked
digitiform — finger-like
elongate — long and narrow
emarginate — with a notched or concave margin; often used to describe a margin with a broad indentation
entire — complete, unbroken, not interrupted
falcate — sickle-shaped
filiform — thread-like
fimbriate — fringed
flabellate — fan-shaped
flagelliform — long, very thin and tapering
geniculate — bent like a knee or elbow
galeate — helmet-shaped
galeiform — helmet-shaped
glabrous — without setae; bare
granular — grainy
granulate — grainy
granulose — grainy
helical — spiralling like a helix
hyaline — thin and transparent or translucent
imbricate — with overlapping elements, like tiles overlapping on a roof
incrassate — thickened or swollen
laciniate — cut into irregular lobes
lamellar — thin, plate-like, like a fish gill
laminate — thin and flat; sheet-like
lanceolate — narrow and tapering to a point, like the head of a lance
lenticular — lens-shaped; convex on opposing sides
linguiform — tongue-shaped
lobiform — lobe-like
lobulate — divided into small lobes
lunate — shaped like a crescent moon
moniliform —like a uniform string of beads
mucronate — with an abruptly projecting point
obconical — like an inverted cone
obliterate — missing or not detectable
ovoid — more or less oval in outline
parabasal — located close to the base and attached to it
pectinate — comb-like
pilose — densely setose
poriferous — bearing an ozopore (when applied to Polydesmida body rings)
pubescence — fine setation (when applied to Polydesmida body surface)
punctate — marked with small dots or pits
recurved — curved backwards
reniform — kidney-shaped
reticulate — net-like
retrorse — bent or curved backwards or downwards
rhomboid — rhombus- or diamond-shaped
rostrate — beaked
rugose — wrinkled
rugulose — with minute wrinkles
seriate — arranged in a series
serrate — saw-toothed
serrulate — like the edge of a saw with very small teeth
setation — all the setae on the body or a body part
setiferous — bearing setae
setigerous — bearing setae
setose — with setae

Setose should not be used without qualifying, e.g. with sparsely, moderately or densely. Most of a polydesmidan's body bears setae, so setose by itself does not tell you very much. Qualifying words are not entirely satisfactory (sparsely compared to what?), but they are better than nothing.

shagreened — covered with tiny scales or bumps, like shark skin
spathulate — spoon-shaped
spiniferous — bearing spines
spiniform — spine-like
striate, striated — with (often parallel) fine lines or grooves
striolate, striolated — minutely striate
styliform — slender and pointed
trapeziform — shaped like a trapezoid
trapezoidal — shaped like a trapezoid
tridentate — three-toothed
trifid — dividing into three branches
trifurcate — dividing into three branches
truncate — cut off at the free end
tuberculate — with tubercles
uncate — hook-like
unciform — hook-shaped
undulate — with a wavy margin or shape
villose — covered with numerous fine setae (when applied to Polydesmida)


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