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[vur-tuh-bruh] /ˈvɜr tə brə/
noun, plural vertebrae
[vur-tuh-bree, -brey] /ˈvɜr təˌbri, -ˌbreɪ/ (Show IPA),
vertebras. Anatomy, Zoology.
any of the bones or segments composing the spinal column, consisting typically of a cylindrical body and an arch with various processes, and forming a foramen, or opening, through which the spinal cord passes.
Origin of vertebra
1570-80; < Latin: (spinal) joint, equivalent to verte(re) to turn (see verse) + -bra noun suffix Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for vertebrae
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The bones of the pelvis are ankylosed together, and to a large though variable number of vertebrae.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton Sidney H. Reynolds
  • Its flesh is delicate and firm, and with the exception of the vertebrae, has no long bones.

    The Call Of The South Louis Becke
  • Between the neck and the complex and solid sacral bone there are sixteen vertebrae, and there are twelve pairs of ribs, as in Man.

  • Then it fell, shearing through the scales and flesh and vertebrae.

    The Devil in Iron Robert E. Howard
  • The blow must have disturbed the vertebrae; she fell at my feet, made a few movements, and uttered one low sound.

    Desperate Remedies Thomas Hardy
  • The vertebrae are as a rule procoelous, and are very few in number.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton Sidney H. Reynolds
  • The extreme proximal end is fleshy up to its origin, which is fleshy and tendinous from the vertebrae.

British Dictionary definitions for vertebrae


noun (pl) -brae (-briː), -bras
one of the bony segments of the spinal column
Derived Forms
vertebral, adjective
vertebrally, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Latin: joint of the spine, from vertere to turn
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
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Word Origin and History for vertebrae



1610s, from Latin vertebra "joint or articulation of the body, joint of the spine" (plural vertebræ), perhaps from vertere "to turn" (see versus) + instrumental suffix -bra. The notion is of the spine as the "hinge" of the body.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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vertebrae in Medicine

vertebra ver·te·bra (vûr'tə-brə)
n. pl. ver·te·bras or ver·te·brae (-brā', -brē')
Any of the bones or cartilaginous segments of the spinal column, usually 33 in number.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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vertebrae in Science
Plural vertebrae (vûr'tə-brā', -brē') or vertebras
Any of the bones that make up the vertebral column. Each vertebra contains an arched, hollow section through which the spinal cord passes. In humans, the vertebrae are divided into cervical, thoracic, and lumbar sections, and the sacrum and coccyx are both made up of a series of fused vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated by cartilaginous intervertebral disks. See more at skeleton.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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