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  1. of or relating to an orbit.
  1. Physics, Chemistry.
    1. a wave function describing the state of a single electron in an atom (atomic orbital) or in a molecule (molecular orbital).
    2. the electron in that state.

Origin of orbital

1535–45; < New Latin, Medieval Latin orbitālis; see orbit, -al1
Related formsin·ter·or·bi·tal, adjectivein·ter·or·bi·tal·ly, adverbpre·or·bit·al, adjectivesu·per·or·bit·al, adjectivetrans·or·bi·tal, adjectiveun·or·bi·tal, adjectiveun·or·bi·tal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for orbital


  1. of or denoting an orbit
  2. (of a motorway or major road circuit) circling a large city
  1. a region surrounding an atomic nucleus in which the probability distribution of the electrons is given by a wave function
  2. an orbital road
Derived Formsorbitally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for orbital


1540s, with reference to eye sockets; 1839 with reference to heavenly bodies; from orbit (n.) + -al (1).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

orbital in Medicine

infraorbital artery

  1. An artery with origin in the maxillary artery, with distribution to the upper canine and incisor teeth, the inferior rectus and inferior oblique muscles, the lower eyelid, lacrimal sac, and upper lip, and with anastomoses to the branches of the ophthalmic, facial, superior labial, transverse facial, and buccal arteries.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

orbital in Science


  1. A partial description of the quantum state of an electron (or other particle) orbiting the nucleus of an atom. Different orbitals have different shapes and orientations, depending on the energy of the electron, its angular momentum, and its magnetic number. Orbitals have no clear boundaries; the shape of an orbital, as depicted graphically, shows only the regions around the nucleus in which an electron has a relatively high probability of being found. No more than two electrons (each with opposite spin) can coexist in a single orbital because of the Pauli exclusion principle. See also probability wave quantum number shell.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.