See more synonyms for vertebra on
noun, plural ver·te·brae [vur-tuh-bree, -brey] /ˈvɜr təˌbri, -ˌbreɪ/, ver·te·bras. Anatomy, Zoology.
  1. 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for vertebrae

Contemporary Examples of vertebrae

Historical Examples of vertebrae

  • Its flesh is delicate and firm, and with the exception of the vertebrae, has no long bones.

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

    The Devil in Iron

    Robert E. Howard

  • The skull, pelvis, and most vertebrae, as well as the sternum of this form are unknown.

    Extinct Birds

    Walter Rothschild

  • Ribs are often wanting and when present are often not separated off from the vertebrae.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

  • The vertebrae are amphicoelous, and are generally well ossified.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

British Dictionary definitions for vertebrae


noun plural -brae (-briː) or -bras
  1. one of the bony segments of the spinal column
Derived Formsvertebral, adjectivevertebrally, adverb

Word Origin for vertebra

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

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

vertebrae in Medicine


n. pl. ver•te•bras
  1. 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.

vertebrae in Science


Plural vertebrae (vûrtə-brā′, -brē′) vertebras
  1. 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.