of or pertaining 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.

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

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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
vital (ˈvaɪtəl)
1.  essential to maintain life: the lungs perform a vital function
2.  forceful, energetic, or lively: a vital person
3.  of, relating to, having, or displaying life: a vital organism
4.  indispensable or essential: books vital to this study
5.  of great importance; decisive: a vital game
6.  archaic influencing the course of life, esp negatively: a vital treachery
7.  (plural)
 a.  the bodily organs, such as the brain, liver, heart, lungs, etc, that are necessary to maintain life
 b.  the organs of reproduction, esp the male genitals
8.  (plural) the essential elements of anything
[C14: via Old French from Latin vītālis belonging to life, from vīta life]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., "of or manifesting life," from L. vitalis "of or belonging to life," from vita "life," related to vivere "to live," from PIE base *gwei- (cf. O.Pers. *jivaka- "alive;" Gk. bios "life," zoon "animal;" Lith. gyvata "(eternal) life;" O.E. cwic, cwicu "living, alive;" O.Ir. bethu "life;" cf.
also bio-). The sense of "necessary or important" is from 1610s, via the notion of "essential to life" (late 15c.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

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.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Example sentences
Large vultures, vitally necessary and once numbering in the tens of millions,
  now face extinction.
Zoos and aquariums are vitally important to conservation today.
However, as you have pointed out, they often do not deliver access to the
  vitally important knowledge they claim to hold.
Both plot and incident in turn must be vitally related to character.
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