Types of Bones (Bone Types)

Types of Bones or 'Bone Types' can be classified according to the shape of the bone. The shape of bones reflect their functions. When describing specific bones it can be useful to start by stating the type of bone in terms of its shape, e.g. "the scapula is a large flat triangular bone".

The main 5 types of bone (in terms of bone shape) are listed in the following table together with brief descriptions and examples of each. First remember the list of types of bones:

  1. Long Bones
  2. Short Bones
  3. Flat Bones
  4. Irregular Bones
  5. Sesamoid Bones

Bone types




Long Bones

'Long bones' are longer than they are wide,
i.e. length > diameter.

They consist of a shaft - which is the main (long) part and variable number of endings (extremities), depending on the joints formed at one or both ends of the long bone.
Long bones are usually somewhat curved - contributing to their mechanical strength.


Short Bones

'Short bones' can be approximately cube-shaped,
i.e. length is similar to width / depth / diameter.

The most obvious examples are the carpal bones (of the hands / wrists) and the tarsal bones (of the feet / ankles).


Flat Bones

'Flat bones' have a thin shape and, in some cases, provide mechanical protection to soft tissues beneath or enclosed by the flat bone e.g. cranial bones that protect the brain.
Flat bones also have extensive surfaces for muscle attachments e.g. scapulae (shoulder) bones.


Irregular Bones

'Irregular bones' have complicated shapes that cannot be classified as 'long', 'short' or 'flat'. Their shapes are due to the functions they fulfill within the body e.g. providing major mechanical support for the body yet also protecting the spinal cord (in the case of the vertebrae).


Sesamoid Bones

'Sesamoid bones' develop in some tendons in locations where there is considerable friction, tension, and physical stress. Typical areas in which they may form include the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The presence, location and and quantity of sesamoid bones varies considerably from person to person.

Most sesamoid bones are un-named.

Only one type of sesamoid bone is present in all normal human skeletons so has a name. That is the patella (singular), patellae (plural). Patellae are also called 'kneecaps'. Complete human skeletons include 2 of these, one in each leg.

Extra bone type

Meaning / Description



Sutural Bones

Sutural bones are very small bones located specifically within the sutural joints between the cranial bones. They are classified by their location - hence the name of this type of bone - rather than by their shape. The number of sutural bones varies considerably because different people have different numbers of sutural bones

All sutural bones are un-named bones.

Types of Bones

This is the end of this page about bone markings and the features on bones. Information about the structure and functions of bones, the 206 human bones, cranial and facial bones, bones of the feet and hands and skeletal disorders are also included.

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