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[dawr-suh l] /ˈdɔr səl/
of, relating to, or situated at the back, or dorsum.
Anatomy, Zoology.
  1. situated on or toward the upper side of the body, equivalent to the back, or posterior, in humans.
  2. situated on or toward the posterior plane in humans or toward the upper plane in quadrupeds.
Botany. pertaining to the surface away from the axis, as of a leaf; abaxial.
Phonetics. (of a speech sound) articulated with the dorsum of the tongue.
Phonetics. a dorsal speech sound.
Anatomy. a dorsal structure.
Origin of dorsal1
1535-45; < Medieval Latin dorsālis, equivalent to Latin dors(um) back + -ālis -al1
Related forms
dorsally, adverb


[dawr-suh l] /ˈdɔr səl/
dossal (def 1). Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for dorsal
  • Subspecies of this striking sea star are identified by differences in the plates that cover their dorsal side.
  • In suicide victims, the dorsal raphe nucleus sends less than normal amounts of serotonin to the orbital prefrontal cortex.
  • On one occasion, she grabbed the skin under a whale shark's first dorsal fin as it cruised by.
  • Many dolphins have a pronounced beak and all have a central dorsal fin and sharp teeth for feeding, mainly on squid and fish.
  • Their extra-tall, pointed dorsal fins are easily identifiable.
  • It also has a thick layer of blubber and no dorsal fin so it can swim easily under the ice.
  • Its ilium is distinctive, being dorsally convex in profile and with a thick dorsal margin.
  • The varicella virus also travels to nerve cells called dorsal root ganglia.
  • The ray's dorsal side, invisible in this image, is covered with a signature pattern of vivid spots.
  • These spaghetti-type tags are inserted under the dorsal fin.
British Dictionary definitions for dorsal


(anatomy, zoology) relating to the back or spinal part of the body Compare ventral (sense 1)
(botany) of, relating to, or situated on the side of an organ that is directed away from the axis
articulated with the back of the tongue, as the (k) sound in English coot
Derived Forms
dorsally, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Medieval Latin dorsālis, from Latin dorsum back
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 dorsal

1540s, from Middle French dorsal (14c.), from Late Latin dorsalis, corresponding to Latin dorsualis "of the back," from dorsum "back," of uncertain origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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dorsal in Medicine

dorsal dor·sal (dôr'səl)

  1. Of, toward, on, in, or near the back or upper surface of an organ, a part, or an organism.

  2. Lying on the back; supine.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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dorsal in Science
Relating to or on the back or upper surface of an animal.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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