Origin of vital

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin vītālis, equivalent to vīt(a) life (derivative of vīvere to live; akin to Greek bíesthai, Sanskrit jīvati (he) lives, English quick) + -ālis -al1
Related formsvi·tal·ly, adverbvi·tal·ness, nounnon·vi·tal, adjectivenon·vi·tal·ly, adverbnon·vi·tal·ness, nounqua·si-vi·tal, adjectivequa·si-vi·tal·ly, adverbsu·per·vi·tal, adjectivesu·per·vi·tal·ly, adverbsu·per·vi·tal·ness, nounun·vi·tal, adjectiveun·vi·tal·ly, adverbun·vi·tal·ness, noun

Synonyms for vital



plural noun

those bodily organs that are essential to life, as the brain, heart, liver, lungs, and stomach.
the essential parts of something: the vitals of a democracy.

Origin of vitals

1600–10; translation of Latin vītālia; see vital Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vital

Contemporary Examples of vital

Historical Examples of vital

British Dictionary definitions for vital



essential to maintain lifethe lungs perform a vital function
forceful, energetic, or livelya vital person
of, relating to, having, or displaying lifea vital organism
indispensable or essentialbooks vital to this study
of great importance; decisivea vital game
archaic influencing the course of life, esp negativelya vital treachery


  1. the bodily organs, such as the brain, liver, heart, lungs, etc, that are necessary to maintain life
  2. the organs of reproduction, esp the male genitals
(plural) the essential elements of anything
Derived Formsvitally, adverb

Word Origin for vital

C14: via Old French from Latin vītālis belonging to life, from vīta life
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 vital

late 14c., "of or manifesting life," from Latin vitalis "of or belonging to life," from vita "life," related to vivere "to live," from PIE root *gwei- (cf. Old Persian *jivaka- "alive;" Greek bios "life," zoon "animal;" Lithuanian gyvata "(eternal) life;" Old English cwic, cwicu "living, alive;" Old Irish bethu "life;" cf. also bio-). The sense of "necessary or important" is from 1610s, via the notion of "essential to life" (late 15c.). Vital capacity recorded from 1852.



"organs of the body essential to life," c.1600, from the adj. vital taken as a noun.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

vital in Medicine




Of, relating to, or characteristic of life.
Necessary to the continuation of life.
Used or done on a living cell or tissue, as in staining.
Destructive to life; fatal, as of an injury.




The vital body organs.
The parts that are essential to continued functioning, as of a system.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.