ves·​ti·​gial | \ ve-ˈsti-jē-əl How to pronounce vestigial (audio) , -jəl \

Definition of vestigial

1 of a body part or organ : remaining in a form that is small or imperfectly developed and not able to function : being or having the form of a vestige (see vestige sense 2) a vestigial tail Kiwis lack an external tail, and their vestigial wings are entirely hidden beneath a curious plumage—shaggy, more like fur than feathers …— Stephen Jay Gould
2 : remaining as the last small part of something that existed before It's held in the Gold Room, a vestigial ballroom of the kind that every downtown hotel uses for banquets and conventions.— William Zinsser Later colonial laws … prohibited even speaking the Pequot language, now long dead but for a few vestigial words.— Kirk Johnson

Other Words from vestigial

vestigially \ ve-​ˈsti-​jē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce vestigial (audio) , -​jə-​lē \ adverb

Examples of vestigial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The United States is once again a fifty-state proposition, and the Free States seems to have left no vestigial traces: New York is beset by AIDS, Harvey Milk has been assassinated, and the gay rights movement has proceeded unaltered. Rebecca Panovka, Harper’s Magazine , 4 Jan. 2022 In response, countries may hold on to out-of-date hydrological borders, populating their maps with vestigial squiggles, or swap tiny parcels of land to account for the difference. The New Yorker, 23 Nov. 2021 Doctrinaire rockism is no longer a tenable stance in professional music criticism, but overzealous rejections of its vestigial snobbery continue to thrive anyway. Jack Hamilton, The Atlantic, 6 Oct. 2021 But compared to its carbon-intensive forebears, like the i3 and i8 hybrid, the iX’s carbon-y bits seem almost vestigial. Dan Neil, WSJ, 1 Oct. 2021 Others look almost like motorcycles, except with two vestigial pedals. Adrienne So, Wired, 14 Sep. 2021 The view forward is dominated by a large speedometer with a central LCD panel on the left and a smaller almost vestigial pod, which would normally be a tachometer, on the right. Bill Roberson, Forbes, 20 May 2021 The king cab rear seat might best be described as vestigial, as if something larger used to be there. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, 11 Aug. 2021 This practice had, for West, therapeutic value, and as an adult his childhood anxieties are manifested only in a vestigial discomfort with the dark. The New Yorker, 10 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vestigial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of vestigial

1843, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vestigial

Latin vestigium + English -al entry 1

Learn More About vestigial

Time Traveler for vestigial

Time Traveler

The first known use of vestigial was in 1843

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near vestigial



vestigial side band

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for vestigial

Last Updated

9 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Vestigial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for vestigial



English Language Learners Definition of vestigial

: remaining in a form that is not fully developed or able to function
: remaining as the last small part of something that existed before


ves·​ti·​gial | \ ve-ˈsti-jē-əl, -ˈsti-jəl \

Kids Definition of vestigial

: of, relating to, or being the last remaining amount or visible sign of something lost or vanished


ves·​tig·​ial | \ ve-ˈstij-(ē-)əl How to pronounce vestigial (audio) \

Medical Definition of vestigial

: of, relating to, or being a vestige a vestigial structure

Other Words from vestigial

vestigially \ -​ē How to pronounce vestigial (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on vestigial

Nglish: Translation of vestigial for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!