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a muscular organ on the floor of the mouth; it aids in chewing, swallowing, and speech, and is the location of organs of taste. The taste buds are located in the papillae, which are projections on the upper surface of the tongue. The condition of the tongue can sometimes be a guide to the general condition of the body. glossitis (inflammation of the tongue) can accompany anemia, scarlet fever, nutritional deficiencies, and most general infections. Sometimes it is part of an adverse reaction to medication. One form of glossitis causes a smooth tongue, with a red, glazed appearance. A coated or furry tongue may be present in a variety of illnesses, but does not necessarily indicate illness. A dry tongue sometimes indicates insufficiency of fluids in the body, or it may result from fever. When the tongue is extremely dry and has a leathery appearance, the cause may be uremia.
The tongue, showing principal structures. From Dorland's, 2000.
bifid tongue a tongue with a lengthwise cleft.
black tongue (black hairy tongue) hairy tongue in which the hypertrophied filiform papillae are brown or black; called also lingua nigra, melanoglossia, and nigrities linguae.
cleft tongue bifid tongue.
coated tongue one covered with a white or yellow layer of desquamated epithelium, debris, bacteria, fungi, or other material.
fissured tongue (furrowed tongue) a tongue with numerous furrows or grooves on the dorsal surface, often radiating from a groove on the midline.
geographic tongue a tongue with denuded patches, surrounded by thickened epithelium.
hairy tongue a benign condition of the tongue characterized by hypertrophy of the filiform papillae that gives the dorsum of the tongue a furry appearance. The color of the elongated papillae varies from yellowish white to brown or black, depending upon staining by substances such as tobacco, foods, or drugs.
raspberry tongue a diffusely reddened and swollen, uncoated tongue, as seen several days after the onset of the rash in scarlet fever.
scrotal tongue fissured tongue.
strawberry tongue, red raspberry t.
strawberry tongue, white the white-coated tongue with prominent red papillae characteristic of the early stage of scarlet fever; the coating desquamates, leaving a beefy red (raspberry) tongue.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(tŭng), [TA]
1. A mobile mass of muscular tissue covered with mucous membrane, occupying the cavity of the mouth and forming part of its floor, constituting also by its posterior portion the anterior wall of the pharynx. It bears taste buds and assists in mastication, deglutition, and articulation of speech. Synonym(s): glossa, lingua (1)
2. A tonguelike structure. Synonym(s): lingua (2)
[A.S. tunge]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


a. The fleshy, movable, muscular organ, attached in most vertebrates to the floor of the mouth, that is the principal organ of taste, an aid in chewing and swallowing, and, in humans, an important organ of speech.
b. An analogous organ or part in invertebrate animals, as in certain insects or mollusks.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Anatomy A complex, highly mobile muscular organ anchored in the floor of the mouth. It is covered by a mucosa invested with tastebuds and is the main organ of taste. It is central to chewing and swallowing and speech formation
Vox populi In the US and in English speaking countries, sticking out one’s tongue is often interpreted as a sign of derision
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


lingua Anatomy A complex, highly mobile muscular organ anchored in the floor of the mouth, which is central to speaking, chewing, swallowing, is covered by a mucosae invested with tastebuds, is the main organ of taste, assists in forming speech sounds and, when used indisciminately, a major source of interpersonal problems. See Black hairy tongue, Coated tongue, Flycatcher tongue, Geographic tongue, Golden tongue, Hairy tongue, Liver tongue, Magenta tongue, Raspberry tongue, Scrotal tongue, Smart tongue, Strawberry tongue, White strawberry tongue.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(tŭng) [TA]
1. A mobile mass of muscular tissue covered with mucous membrane, occupying the cavity of the mouth and forming part of its floor, constituting also by its posterior portion the anterior wall of the pharynx. It bears the organ of taste, assists in mastication and deglutition, and is the principal instrument of articulate speech.
Synonym(s): lingua (1) [TA] , glossa.
2. A tonguelike structure.
Synonym(s): lingua (2) [TA] .
[A.S. tunge]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Enlarge picture
A freely movable muscular organ that lies partly in the floor of the mouth and partly in the pharynx. It is the organ of taste and contributes also to chewing, swallowing, and speech. Synonym: lingua See: illustration


The tongue consists of a body and root and is attached by muscles to the hyoid bone below, the mandible in front, the styloid process behind, and the palate above, and by mucous membrane to the floor of the mouth, the lateral walls of the pharynx, and the epiglottis. A median fold (frenulum linguae) connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The surface of the tongue bears numerous papillae of three types: filiform, fungiform, and circumvallate (or vallate). Taste buds are present on the surfaces of many of the papillae, esp. the vallate papillae. Mucous and serous glands (lingual glands) are present; their ducts open on the surface. The lingual tonsils are lymphatic tissue on the base of the tongue. A median fibrous septum extends the entire length of the tongue.

Arteries: The lingual, exterior maxillary, and ascending pharyngeal arteries supply blood to the tongue. Muscles: Extrinsic muscles include genioglossus, hypoglossus, and styloglossus; intrinsic muscles consist of four groups: superior, inferior, transverse, and vertical lingualis muscles. The hypoglossal nerves are motor to the tongue; the facial and glossopharyngeal nerves are sensory for taste. Nerves: Lingual nerve (containing fibers from trigeminal and facial nerves), glossopharyngeal, vagus, and hypoglossal.

bifid tongue

A tongue with a cleft at its anterior end. Synonym: cleft tongue; forked tongue

black hairy tongue

Elongation and discoloration (brown, black or white) of the filiform papillae found on the dorsal, middle to posterior third of the tongue. It is associated with alcohol, smoking, toothpaste and mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide, and liquid aniacids.

burning tongue

Burning mouth syndrome.

cleft tongue

Bifid tongue.

coated tongue

A tongue covered with a layer of whitish or yellowish material consisting of desquamated epithelium, bacteria, or food debris. The significance of this is difficult to interpret. It may mean only that the patient slept with the mouth open or has not eaten because of loss of appetite. If darkly coated, it may indicate a fungus infection.

dry tongue

A tongue that is dry and shriveled, usually indicative of dehydration. It may also be the result of mouth breathing.

fern-leaf tongue

A tongue possessing a prominent central furrow and lateral branches.

filmy tongue

A tongue possessing symmetrical whitish patches.

fissured tongue

Scrotal tongue.

forked tongue

Bifid tongue.

furred tongue

A coated tongue on which the surface epithelium appears as a coat of white fur. It is seen in nearly all fevers. Unilateral furring may result from disturbed innervation, as in conditions affecting the second and third branches of the fifth nerve. It has been noted in neuralgia of those branches and in fractures of the skull involving the foramen rotundum. Yellow fur indicates jaundice.
Enlarge picture

geographic tongue

A tongue with white raised areas, normal epithelium, and atrophic regions. This condition is also known as benign migratory glossitis.
See: illustration

hairy tongue

A tongue covered with hairlike papillae entangled with threads produced by the fungi Aspergillus niger or Candida albicans. This condition is usually seen as the result of antibiotic therapy that inhibits growth of bacteria normally present in the mouth, permitting overgrowth of fungi. Synonym: glossotrichia; lingua nigra

magenta tongue

A physical finding in patients with riboflavin deficiency.

parrot tongue

A dry shriveled tongue seen in typhus.

raspberry tongue

Strawberry tongue.

Sandwith bald tongue

See: Sandwith bald tongue

scrotal tongue

A furrowed and rugated tongue, resembling the skin of the scrotum.
Synonym: fissured tongue

smoker's tongue


smooth tongue

A tongue with atrophic papillae. It is characteristic of many conditions, such as anemia and malnutrition.

split tongue

A cleft or bifid tongue resulting from developmental arrest.

strawberry tongue

A tongue that first has a white coat except at the tip and along the edges, with enlarged papillae standing out distinctly against the white surface. Later the white coat disappears, leaving a bright red surface. This is characteristic of scarlet fever. Synonym: raspberry tongue

trifid tongue

A tongue in which the anterior end is divided into three parts.

trombone tongue

The rapid involuntary movement of the tongue in and out.
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners


The muscular, mucous membrane-covered, highly flexible organ that is attached to the lower jaw (mandible) and the HYOID BONE in the neck, and forms part of the floor of the mouth. The mucous membrane contains numerous small projections called papillae. On the edges and base of the tongue are many special nerve endings subserving taste and called taste buds.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


a muscular organ on the floor of the mouth in most higher vertebrates that carries taste buds and manipulates food. It may act as a tactile or prehensile organ in some species.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005


(tŭng) [TA]
Mobile mass of muscular tissue covered with mucous membrane, occupying cavity of mouth and forming part of its floor, constituting also by its posterior portion anterior wall of pharynx; bears taste buds and assists in mastication, deglutition, and articulation of speech.
Synonym(s): lingua.
[A.S. tunge]
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about tongue

Q. What is the treatment for tongue cancer? My Father in Law is 65 and has just been diagnosed with tongue cancer. What treatment will he be undergoing? What are his survival rates?

A. I had tongue cancer which sread to my lymph nodes on my neck. I underwent surgery and now I only have half of my tongue. But thanks to the surgeon Dr Justin Bergman (TRINTAS HOSPITAl Elizabeth NJ)I can speak enough to make me understand.I also got 9 weeks radiation after the operation.The bad thing is that recently after a Pet Scan I got the bad news that I have a cancerous tumor in my left lung on the same side were the tongue cancer was

Q. What is Tongue cancer? I heard that smoking can cause tongue cancer. Is this true and what is tongue cancer?

A. Cancer of the tongue is a malignant tumor that begins as a small lump, a firm white patch, or a sore (ulcer) on the tongue. If untreated, the tumor may spread throughout the tongue to the floor of the mouth and to the gum (jaws). As a tumor grows, it becomes more life threatening by spreading (metastasizing) to lymph nodes in the neck and later to the rest of the body. The general term for this type of cancer is cancer of the oral cavity.

Hope this help.

Q. What are the symptoms of tongue cancer? I have a white patch on my tongue for quite a while. I tried scratching it off but it starts bleeding. Is it cancer?

A. The symptoms of tongue cancer may include:
A red or white patch on the tongue, that will not go away
A sore throat that does not go away
A sore spot on the tongue that does not go away
Pain when swallowing
Numbness in the mouth that will not go away
Unexplained bleeding from the tongue (that is, not caused by biting your tongue or other injury)
Pain in the ear (rare)
However, don't be alarmed as these symptoms may be due to a less serious medical condition. But it is important to check symptoms with your GP just to make sure.

More discussions about tongue
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