Note: The subscapularis is one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff. The infraspinatus, teres minor, and supraspinatus are covered in separate articles:

By Anatomography - en:Anatomography (setting page of this image), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp,

By Anatomography - en:Anatomography (setting page of this image), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp,

What’s in a name

Rotator Cuff:

  • rotate (v.) 1794, intransitive, back-formation from rotation. Transitive sense from 1823. Related:Rotated; rotating. Rotator “muscle which allows a part to be moved circularly” is recorded from 1670s. (Etymology Online)
  • cuff (n.) “bottom of a sleeve,” mid-14c., cuffe “hand covering, mitten, glove,” perhaps somehow from Medieval Latin cuffia “head covering,” of uncertain origin. Sense of “band around the sleeve” is first attested 1520s; sense of “hem of trousers” is 1911. (Etymology Online)
    • "A covering that rotates"


  • sub- word-forming element meaning "under, beneath; behind; from under; resulting from further division," from Latin preposition sub "under, below, beneath, at the foot of," also "close to, up to, towards;" of time, "within, during;" figuratively "subject to, in the power of;" also "a little, somewhat" (as in sub-horridus "somewhat rough"). (Etymology Online)
  • scapula (n.) "shoulder blade," 1570s, Modern Latin, from Late Latin scapula "shoulder," from Latin scapulae (plural) "shoulders, shoulder blades," perhaps originally "spades, shovels," on notion of similar shape, but animal shoulder blades might have been used as scraping tools in primitive times, from PIE *skap-, variant of *skep- "to cut, scrape" (see scabies). (Etymology Online)
  • -ar: word-formation element meaning "pertaining to, of the nature of," from Latin -arem,