ves·​ti·​gial ve-ˈsti-jē-əl How to pronounce vestigial (audio)
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
: 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
vestigially adverb

Examples of vestigial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In humans, vestigial organs include wisdom teeth and the appendix. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Mar. 2024 In order to reach the widest possible Netflix audience, that cultural context has been completely universalized and most of the biggest ideas, which remain too frequently as vestigial references, have been sanded down to purposeless traces of coolness instead of integral elements. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Mar. 2024 The persistence of these broad categories is partly a vestigial constraint from a time when paper surveys dominated. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Jr., STAT, 19 Dec. 2023 There have been several local births in town of babies with vestigial tails, most to parents associated with the same fertility clinic, where Eddie works. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 10 Sep. 2023 Yet some evolutionary adaptations are vestigial remnants of traits that were useful in the past but have become less significant as animals have evolved. Roberta McLain, Scientific American, 12 Dec. 2023 Couture may be the vestigial tail of fashion, but that is an entirely contemporary idea. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, 4 July 2023 Mission Valley Centers is an example of a vestigial retail center that has long ago outlived its need. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 July 2023 Adults have vestigial mouth parts and cannot feed, so flowers won’t attract them. Miri Talabac, Baltimore Sun, 18 July 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vestigial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin vestigium + English -al entry 1

First Known Use

1843, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of vestigial was in 1843

Dictionary Entries Near vestigial

Cite this Entry

“Vestigial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


ves·​tig·​ial ve-ˈstij-(ē-)əl How to pronounce vestigial (audio)
: of, relating to, or being a vestige
a vestigial structure
vestigially adverb

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