vibrissa

noun

vi·​bris·​sa vī-ˈbri-sə How to pronounce vibrissa (audio)
və-
plural vibrissae vī-ˈbri-(ˌ)sē How to pronounce vibrissa (audio)
və-,
-ˌsī How to pronounce vibrissa (audio)
1
a
: any of the stiff hairs that are located on the face and especially about the snout of many mammals and typically serve as tactile organs
also : a similar stiff tactile hair growing elsewhere on some mammals (as in a small tuft at the wrist)
b
: any of the coarse hairs growing within the nostrils of humans that serve to impede the inhalation of particulate matter
2
: one of the bristly feathers near the mouth of many and especially insectivorous birds that may help to prevent the escape of insects

Did you know?

The whiskers of a cat qualify as vibrissae (that’s the plural of vibrissa), as do the hairlike feathers around the bill of some birds - especially the insect-feeding kind. And when scientists first used vibrissa in the late 17th century, they used the word to refer specifically to the hairs inside the human nostril. Science got this word, as it has many others, from Latin. Vibrissa comes from vibrare, which means all of the following: "to brandish," "to wave," "to rock," and "to propel suddenly." Other vibrare descendents in English include vibrate, vibrato, and veer.

Word History

Etymology

Medieval Latin, from Latin vibrare

First Known Use

circa 1693, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of vibrissa was circa 1693

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near vibrissa

Cite this Entry

“Vibrissa.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vibrissa. Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Medical Definition

vibrissa

noun
vi·​bris·​sa vī-ˈbris-ə, və- How to pronounce vibrissa (audio)
1
: any of the stiff hairs that are located on the face and especially about the snout of many mammals and typically serve as tactile organs
2
: any of the coarse hairs growing within the nostrils of humans that serve to impede the inhalation of particulate matter
vibrissal adjective
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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