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[spahyn] /spaɪn/
the spinal or vertebral column; backbone.
any backbonelike part.
a stiff, pointed process or appendage on an animal, as a quill of a porcupine, or a sharp, bony ray in the fin of a fish.
something, as a quality or trait, that constitutes a principal strength; resolution; stamina; backbone:
a situation that would test a person's spine.
a ridge, as of ground or rock.
a sharp-pointed, hard or woody outgrowth on a plant; thorn.
Bookbinding. the back of a book cover or binding, usually indicating the title and author.
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin spīna thorn, backbone
Related forms
spined, adjective
spinelike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for spines
  • Six of the tentacles are paired with spines, while one is in front of the spines.
  • The base of the neck has spines which project upward and form a hump over the shoulders.
  • A large green sluglike experiment with three spines on his back.
  • The leaves are deeply lobed with long, stiff spines along the margins.
  • The plants often bear spines, especially those species growing in arid regions.
  • Cactus flowers are large, and like the spines and branches arise from areoles.
  • This venom is produced by glandular cells in the epidermal tissue covering the spines.
British Dictionary definitions for spines


the spinal column
the sharply pointed tip or outgrowth of a leaf, stem, etc
(zoology) a hard pointed process or structure, such as the ray of a fin, the quill of a porcupine, or the ridge on a bone
the back of a book, record sleeve, etc
a ridge, esp of a hill
strength of endurance, will, etc
anything resembling the spinal column in function or importance; main support or feature
Derived Forms
spined, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French espine spine, from Latin spīna thorn, backbone
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 spines
c.1400, "backbone," later "thornlike part" (1430), from O.Fr. espine (Fr. épine), from L. spina "backbone," originally "thorn, prickle," from PIE *spei- "sharp point" (cf. L. spica "ear of corn," O.N. spikr "nail;" see spike (n.1)). Meaning "the back of a book" is first attested 1922. Spineless in fig. sense of "irresolute" is from 1885. Spine-chiller "mystery film" is attested from 1940; spine tingler in same sense is from 1942.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spines in Medicine

spine (spīn)

  1. See spinal column.

  2. Any of various short pointed projections, processes, or appendages of bone.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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spines in Science
  1. See vertebral column.

  2. Any of various pointed projections, processes, or appendages of animals.

  3. A sharp-pointed projection on a plant, especially a hard, narrow modified leaf, as on a cactus, that is adapted to reduce water loss. Compare thorn. See more at leaf.

spinal adjective
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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