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[vur-tuh-brit, -breyt] /ˈvɜr tə brɪt, -ˌbreɪt/
having vertebrae; having a backbone or spinal column.
belonging or pertaining to the Vertebrata (or Craniata), a subphylum of chordate animals, comprising those having a brain enclosed in a skull or cranium and a segmented spinal column; a major taxonomic group that includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes.
a vertebrate animal.
Origin of vertebrate
First recorded in 1820-30, vertebrate is from the Latin word vertebrātus jointed. See vertebra, -ate1
Related forms
nonvertebrate, adjective, noun
subvertebrate, noun, adjective
unvertebrate, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for vertebrates
Historical Examples
  • In man and other vertebrates, hermaphrodism is always abnormal.

    The Sexual Question August Forel
  • All these facts tell in favour of the common descent of man and all other vertebrates.

  • Who can tell, for instance, how vertebrates arose or from what origin?

  • The law of parallelism applied not only to vertebrates but also to Invertebrates.

    Form and Function E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell
  • Dugès also made a comparison of Articulates with vertebrates.

    Form and Function E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell
  • Probably arthropods and vertebrates were threatened with it too.

    Creative Evolution Henri Bergson
  • A good many poets must be classed with this group of vertebrates.

    Over the Teacups Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  • For my part, I see no reason why we should not immediately leave the vertebrates.

    'That Very Mab' May Kendall and Andrew Lang
  • The corpuscles of the blood are also similar in form to those of the vertebrates.

    The Sea Shore William S. Furneaux
  • Eyes in the head are an essential part of the organisation of vertebrates.

British Dictionary definitions for vertebrates


/ˈvɜːtɪˌbreɪt; -brɪt/
any chordate animal of the subphylum Vertebrata, characterized by a bony or cartilaginous skeleton and a well-developed brain: the group contains fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals
of, relating to, or belonging to the subphylum Vertebrata
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 vertebrates



1826, from Latin vertebratus (Pliny), from vertebra "joint or articulation of the body, joint of the spine" (see vertebra).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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vertebrates in Medicine

vertebrate ver·te·brate (vûr'tə-brĭt, -brāt')

  1. Having a spinal column.

  2. Of or characteristic a vertebrate.

A member of the subphylum Vertebrata.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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vertebrates in Science
  (vûr'tə-brĭt, -brāt')   
Any of a large group of chordates of the subphylum Vertebrata (or Craniata), characterized by having a backbone. Vertebrates are bilaterally symmetrical and have an internal skeleton of bone or cartilage, a nervous system divided into brain and spinal cord, and not more than two pairs of limbs. Vertebrates have a well-developed body cavity (called a coelom) containing a chambered heart, large digestive organs, liver, pancreas, and paired kidneys, and their blood contains both red and white corpuscles. Vertebrates include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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vertebrates in Culture
vertebrates [(vur-tuh-bruhts, vur-tuh-brayts)]

Animals that have a spinal cord enclosed in a backbone.

Note: The five traditional classes of vertebrates are amphibians, birds, fishes, mammals, and reptiles. (Compare invertebrates.)
Note: Human beings are vertebrates.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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