• synonyms


[dawr-suh l]
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  1. of, relating to, or situated at the back, or dorsum.
  2. Anatomy, Zoology.
    1. situated on or toward the upper side of the body, equivalent to the back, or posterior, in humans.
    2. situated on or toward the posterior plane in humans or toward the upper plane in quadrupeds.
    Compare ventral(def 2).
  3. Botany. pertaining to the surface away from the axis, as of a leaf; abaxial.
  4. Phonetics. (of a speech sound) articulated with the dorsum of the tongue.
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  1. Phonetics. a dorsal speech sound.
  2. Anatomy. a dorsal structure.
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Origin of dorsal1

1535–45; < Medieval Latin dorsālis, equivalent to Latin dors(um) back + -ālis -al1
Related formsdor·sal·ly, adverb


[dawr-suh l]
  1. dossal(def 1).
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

behind, last, back, hind, hinder, reverse, rearward, posterior, tail, stern, following, postern, mizzen, hand, vane, appendage, pinna, stabilizer, flipper, airfoil

Examples from the Web for dorsal

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

British Dictionary definitions for dorsal


  1. anatomy zoology relating to the back or spinal part of the bodyCompare ventral (def. 1)
  2. botany of, relating to, or situated on the side of an organ that is directed away from the axis
  3. articulated with the back of the tongue, as the (k) sound in English coot
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Derived Formsdorsally, adverb

Word Origin

C15: from Medieval Latin dorsālis, from Latin dorsum back
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 dorsal


1540s, from Middle French dorsal (14c.), from Late Latin dorsalis, corresponding to Latin dorsualis "of the back," from dorsum "back," of uncertain origin.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

dorsal in Medicine


  1. Of, toward, on, in, or near the back or upper surface of an organ, a part, or an organism.
  2. Lying on the back; supine.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

dorsal in Science


  1. Relating to or on the back or upper surface of an animal.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.