What word does your mother always say?


[vahyt-l] /ˈvaɪt l/
of or relating to life:
vital processes.
having remarkable energy, liveliness, or force of personality:
a vital leader.
being the seat or source of life:
the vital organs.
necessary to life:
vital fluids.
necessary to the existence, continuance, or well-being of something; indispensable; essential:
vital for a healthy society.
affecting the existence, well-being, truth, etc., of something:
a vital error.
of critical importance:
vital decisions.
destructive to life; deadly:
a vital wound.
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 forms
vitally, adverb
vitalness, noun
nonvital, adjective
nonvitally, adverb
nonvitalness, noun
quasi-vital, adjective
quasi-vitally, adverb
supervital, adjective
supervitally, adverb
supervitalness, noun
unvital, adjective
unvitally, adverb
unvitalness, noun
5. important, critical.


[vahyt-lz] /ˈvaɪt lz/
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.
1600-10; translation of Latin vītālia; see vital Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for vital
  • Without these essential proteins, vital chemical reactions would occur far too slowly, if at all.
  • It was vital in demonstrating the rate at which the universe is expanding.
  • Had one come up in the service elevator, though, an unmistakable aroma would have given a vital clue.
  • Jostling rain-crowds, clamorous and vital, struggle in runnels through the afternoon.
  • The newspapers seem to be blossoming out with all manner of vital mustache news.
  • The result is brilliantly vital: the world bulges out of the sentences.
  • From scene to scene, the movie has an enormously vital swing to it.
  • Language is as vital to the physician's art as the stethoscope or the scalpel.
  • There is a healthy and vital debate about how best to change hospital incentives.
  • She hands me a focus sheet, which has the name and phone number and some vital information about a potential contributor.
British Dictionary definitions for vital


essential to maintain life: the lungs perform a vital function
forceful, energetic, or lively: a vital person
of, relating to, having, or displaying life: a vital organism
indispensable or essential: books vital to this study
of great importance; decisive: a vital game
(archaic) influencing the course of life, esp negatively: a 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
(pl) the essential elements of anything
Derived Forms
vitally, adverb
Word Origin
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
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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
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vital in Medicine

vital vi·tal (vīt'l)

  1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of life.

  2. Necessary to the continuation of life.

  3. Used or done on a living cell or tissue, as in staining.

  4. Destructive to life; fatal, as of an injury.

vitals vi·tals (vīt'lz)

  1. The vital body organs.

  2. 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.
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vital in Technology

A semantics language using FSL, developed by Mondshein in 1967.
[Sammet 1969, p. 641].

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Related Abbreviations for vital


vital signs (pulse rate, temperature, respiratory rate)
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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