[ vur-tuh-brit, -breyt ]
See synonyms for vertebrate on
  1. having vertebrae; having a backbone or spinal column.

  2. 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.

  1. a vertebrate animal.

Origin of vertebrate

First recorded in 1820–30, vertebrate is from the Latin word vertebrātus jointed. See vertebra, -ate1

Other words from vertebrate

  • non·ver·te·brate, adjective, noun
  • sub·ver·te·brate, noun, adjective
  • un·ver·te·brate, adjective

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

How to use vertebrate in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for vertebrate


/ (ˈvɜːtɪˌbreɪt, -brɪt) /

  1. 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

  1. 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

Scientific definitions for vertebrate


[ vûrtə-brĭt, -brāt′ ]

  1. 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.