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

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Other Words from vestigial

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

Examples of vestigial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The nexus of politics and law enforcement is some vestigial old-English nonsense that needs to be reconsidered. al, "Whitmire: Who was the scummiest of them all?," 29 Dec. 2019 Many of us learned in school that this tiny, fingerlike projection off the colon is a useless, vestigial remnant of our evolution, much like the puny leg bones found in some snakes. Claudia Wallis, Scientific American, "Are All Our Organs Vital?," 1 Mar. 2019 So are any human body parts truly useless or vestigial? Claudia Wallis, Scientific American, "Are All Our Organs Vital?," 1 Mar. 2019 Much of this work continues to be done by folks who have come of age after 9-11, a tragedy that revealed our vestigial instinct to come together, unconditionally, to rebuild. Ben Crandell,, "Weekend preview: Tunnel to Towers 5K, a date night on the beach and Bumblefest," 11 Sep. 2019 In this vestigial intersection of law enforcement and politics, each has amplified the bad habits of the other. al, "Move over Beach House Sheriff. Meet Sheriff Scratch-off," 28 Aug. 2019 Less promoted but nonetheless implicit was the end of a way of a life, albeit a vestigial one. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: The uncertain fate of the San Fernando Valley’s last remaining commercial citrus grove," 16 Aug. 2019 The Alliance for Audited Media now estimates that the average circulation of the vestigial biweekly is 16,195. Eric Zorn,, "Column: 10 years later, the death of its daily newspaper still haunts my hometown," 19 July 2019 And the TWA Hotel still conveys that dormant, vestigial longing for better things. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "The TWA Hotel revives a magnificent, mid-century vision of the friendly skies," 12 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of vestigial

1843, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vestigial

Latin vestigium + English -al entry 1

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Time Traveler for vestigial

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The first known use of vestigial was in 1843

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Statistics for vestigial

Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vestigial.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for vestigial


How to pronounce vestigial (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of vestigial

technical, of a body part : remaining in a form that is not fully developed or able to function
formal : 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 vestigially (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on vestigial

Nglish: Translation of vestigial for Spanish Speakers

Comments on vestigial

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a feeling of well-being or elation

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