• 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for dorsally

Historical Examples

  • It gives off dorsally a pair of short processes which meet the pro-otics.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

  • Dorsally it is fixed to the squamosal and anteriorly to the quadratojugal.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

  • The body of the embryo is, as pointed out by Scott and Osborn, ventrally instead of dorsally flexed.

  • The incus has a dorsally rounded body with an anterior downward snoutlike projection with which the malleus articulates.

  • In Dipnoans the sinus becomes greatly dilated and forms a large, rounded, dorsally placed cloacal caecum.

British Dictionary definitions for dorsally


  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 dorsally



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

dorsally 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.

dorsally 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.