sternum

[stur-nuhm]
noun, plural sterna [stur-nuh] , sternums.
1.
Anatomy, Zoology. a bone or series of bones extending along the middle line of the ventral portion of the body of most vertebrates, consisting in humans of a flat, narrow bone connected with the clavicles and the true ribs; breastbone. See diag. under skeleton.
2.
the ventral surface of a body segment of an arthropod.

Origin:
1660–70; < Neo-Latin < Greek stérnon chest, breastbone

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World English Dictionary
sternum (ˈstɜːnəm)
 
n , pl -na, -nums
1.  Nontechnical name: breastbone (in man) a long flat vertical bone, situated in front of the thorax, to which are attached the collarbone and the first seven pairs of ribs
2.  the corresponding part in many other vertebrates
3.  Compare tergum a cuticular plate covering the ventral surface of a body segment of an arthropod
 
[C17: via New Latin from Greek sternon breastbone]
 
'sternal
 
adj

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

sternum
1667, from Gk. sternon "chest, breast, breastbone" (in Homer, only of males), from PIE *stre-to- "to stretch, extend," from a root meaning "flat surface," related to stornynai "to spread out" (see structure), on the notion of the chest as broad and flat, as opposed to the neck.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

sternum ster·num (stûr'nəm)
n. pl. ster·nums or ster·na (-nə)
A long flat bone, articulating with the cartilages of the first seven ribs and with the clavicle, forming the middle part of the anterior wall of the thorax, and consisting of the corpus, manubrium, and xiphoid process. Also called breastbone.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
sternum   (stûr'nəm)  Pronunciation Key 
A long, flat bone located in the center of the chest, serving as a support for the collarbone and ribs. Also called breastbone. See more at skeleton.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

sternum

in the anatomy of tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates), elongated bone in the centre of the chest that articulates with and provides support for the clavicles (collarbones) of the shoulder girdle and for the ribs. Its origin in evolution is unclear. A sternum appears in certain salamanders; it is present in most other tetrapods but lacking in legless lizards, snakes, and turtles (in which the shell provides needed support). In birds an enlarged keel develops, to which flight muscles are attached; the sternum of the bat is also keeled as an adaptation for flight

Learn more about sternum with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Its shoulders, wishbone and large sternum resembled those of modern birds.
The sternum straps in particular keep things in the right place and the main
  weight on top of your shoulders.
He pumped the heel of his palm against her sternum a few times, but her skin
  was cool as clay.
The treatment is intended to eliminate a tumor behind the sternum.
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