[ vek-ter ]
See synonyms for: vectorvectors on

  1. Mathematics.

    • a quantity possessing both magnitude and direction, represented by an arrow the direction of which indicates the direction of the quantity and the length of which is proportional to the magnitude.: Compare scalar (def. 4).

    • such a quantity with the additional requirement that such quantities obey the parallelogram law of addition.

    • such a quantity with the additional requirement that such quantities are to transform in a particular way under changes of the coordinate system.

    • any generalization of the above quantities.

  2. the direction or course followed by an airplane, missile, or the like.

  1. Biology.

    • an insect or other organism that transmits a pathogenic fungus, virus, bacterium, etc.

    • any agent that acts as a carrier or transporter, as a virus or plasmid that conveys a genetically engineered DNA segment into a host cell.

  2. Computers. an array of data ordered such that individual items can be located with a single index or subscript.

verb (used with object)
  1. Aeronautics. to guide (an aircraft) in flight by issuing appropriate headings.

  2. Aerospace. to change direction of (the thrust of a jet or rocket engine) in order to steer the craft.

Origin of vector

First recorded in 1695–1705; from Latin: “carrier,” from vec- (variant stem of vehere “to carry”) + -tor -tor

Other words from vector

  • vec·to·ri·al [vek-tawr-ee-uhl, -tohr-], /vɛkˈtɔr i əl, -ˈtoʊr-/, adjective
  • vec·to·ri·al·ly, adverb

Words Nearby vector Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use vector in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for vector


/ (ˈvɛktə) /

  1. Also called: polar vector maths a variable quantity, such as force, that has magnitude and direction and can be resolved into components that are odd functions of the coordinates. It is represented in print by a bold italic symbol: F or ̄F: Compare pseudoscalar, pseudovector, scalar (def. 1), tensor (def. 2)

  2. maths an element of a vector space

  1. Also called: carrier pathol an organism, esp an insect, that carries a disease-producing microorganism from one host to another, either within or on the surface of its body

  2. Also called: cloning vector genetics an agent, such as a bacteriophage or a plasmid, by means of which a fragment of foreign DNA is inserted into a host cell to produce a gene clone in genetic engineering

  3. the course or compass direction of an aircraft

  4. any behavioural influence, force, or drive

  1. to direct or guide (a pilot, aircraft, etc) by directions transmitted by radio

  2. to alter the direction of (the thrust of a jet engine) as a means of steering an aircraft

Origin of vector

C18: from Latin: carrier, from vehere to convey

Derived forms of vector

  • vectorial (vɛkˈtɔːrɪəl), adjective
  • vectorially, 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

Scientific definitions for vector


[ vĕktər ]

  1. A quantity, such as the velocity of an object or the force acting on an object, that has both magnitude and direction. Compare scalar.

  2. An organism, such as a mosquito or tick, that spreads pathogens from one host to another.

  1. A bacteriophage, plasmid, or other agent that transfers genetic material from one cell to another.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for vector


In physics and mathematics, any quantity with both a magnitude and a direction. For example, velocity is a vector because it describes both how fast something is moving and in what direction it is moving. Because velocity is a vector, other quantities in which velocity is a factor, such as acceleration and momentum, are vectors also.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.