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[vur-tuh-bruh] /ˈvɜr tə brə/
noun, plural vertebrae
[vur-tuh-bree, -brey] /ˈvɜr təˌbri, -ˌbreɪ/ (Show IPA),
vertebras. Anatomy, Zoology
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.
1570-80; < Latin: (spinal) joint, equivalent to verte(re) to turn (see verse) + -bra noun suffix Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for vertebrae
  • It's because the discs between your backbone's vertebrae shrink.
  • The same thing happens to our vertebrae, which weren't designed to sit on top of each other in one weight-bearing column.
  • The skulls of sauropods are small and delicate compared with the creatures' limbs and vertebrae.
  • Reeve landed headfirst, fracturing the uppermost vertebrae in his spine.
  • In addition, vertebrae lose some of their mineral content, making each bone thinner.
  • It can also help prevent weak vertebrae from becoming fractured by strengthening the bones in your spinal column.
  • These include muscles and nerves as well as spinal vertebrae and the cushioning disks in between.
  • In fact, it causes major damage to the lumbar vertebrae.
  • We both have backbones made of stacks of vertebrae, and skulls enclosing our brains and protecting our paired eyes and ears.
British Dictionary definitions for vertebrae


noun (pl) -brae (-briː), -bras
one of the bony segments of the spinal column
Derived Forms
vertebral, adjective
vertebrally, adverb
Word Origin
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
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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
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vertebrae in Medicine

vertebra ver·te·bra (vûr'tə-brə)
n. pl. ver·te·bras or ver·te·brae (-brā', -brē')
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.
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vertebrae in Science
Plural vertebrae (vûr'tə-brā', -brē') or vertebras
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 © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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