Muscles That Move The Tongue

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Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

The tongue is obviously important for tasting food, it is also necessary for mastication, deglutition (swallowing), and speech. Because it is so moveable, the tongue facilitates complex speech patterns and sounds.

Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

Tongue muscles can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic tongue muscles insert into the tongue from outside origins, and the intrinsic tongue muscles insert into the tongue from origins within it. The extrinsic muscles move the whole tongue in different directions, whereas the intrinsic muscles allow the tongue to change its shape (such as, curling the tongue in a loop or flattening it).

The extrinsic muscles all include the word root glossus (glossus = “tongue”), and the muscle names are derived from where the muscle originates. The genioglossus (genio = “chin”) originates on the mandible and allows the tongue to move downward and forward. The styloglossus originates on the styloid bone, and allows upward and backward motion. The palatoglossus originates on the soft palate to elevate the back of the tongue, and the hyoglossus originates on the hyoid bone to move the tongue downward and flatten it.


Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: