ver·​te·​brate | \ ˈvər-tə-brət How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) , -ˌbrāt How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) \

Definition of vertebrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of a subphylum (Vertebrata) of chordates that comprises animals (such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes) typically having a bony or cartilaginous spinal column which replaces the notochord, a distinct head containing a brain which arises as an enlarged part of the nerve cord, and an internal usually bony skeleton and that includes some primitive forms (such as lampreys) in which the spinal column is absent and the notochord persists throughout life



Definition of vertebrate (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : having a spinal column
b : of or relating to the vertebrates
2 : organized or constructed in orderly or developed form

Examples of vertebrate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun So far, pieces of the axial skeleton (a term that refers to a vertebrate’s head and trunk) have been removed from the site, including vertebrae and ribs. Ashley Stimpson, Popular Mechanics, 1 Sep. 2022 In recent weeks, Portuguese and Spanish researchers have uncovered the vertebrate and ribs of the sauropod in the man's backyard. Paul Best, Fox News, 26 Aug. 2022 Greenland sharks are the world's longest-living vertebrate on Earth, capable of living up at least 400 years, according to a 2016 study. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 31 July 2022 Diving deep has evolved in nearly every type of ocean-going vertebrate. Stephanie Pain, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 June 2022 Connie's vertebrate was cracked as her husband watched in horror. Christine Macdonald, Detroit Free Press, 22 May 2022 That era on Earth was a goofy time to be a vertebrate, according to Ben Otoo, a graduate student studying early tetrapods at the University of Chicago. New York Times, 29 Apr. 2022 Originally described in 2015, the squiggly little fossil vertebrate was heralded as a possible relative of the earliest snakes, a sinuous reptile that still had legs. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Feb. 2022 This fossil appears to be an early amniote, which is a land-living vertebrate that lays eggs, according to Adam Huttenlocker, an outside specialist on the team who researches early tetrapod fossils and is an assistant professor at USC. Sherry Liang, CNN, 5 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Rowe, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences, is an expert in vertebrate paleontology and doesn't typically study mammoths or early humans. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 4 Aug. 2022 Many people now have looked in many, many vertebrate tissues. Steven Strogatz, Quanta Magazine, 27 July 2022 This is one of the highest rates of any vertebrate group. David Shiffman, Scientific American, 24 May 2022 The endocannabinoid system is a cell-signaling system found in the bodies of all vertebrate animals, including dogs. The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 June 2022 Similar calculations suggest that, each year, more than 350 million vertebrate animals are killed by traffic in the U.S. Menno Schilthuizen, Scientific American, 12 Apr. 2022 The first vertebrate animals to crawl onto land were relatives of the modern lungfish. David George Haskell, Wired, 8 Mar. 2022 The Greenland shark is the second largest shark after the great white and is the longest living vertebrate animal, according to the St. Lawrence Shark Observatory in Quebec, Canada. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, 8 Apr. 2022 Big Bone Lick is considered the birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology. Jeff Suess, The Enquirer, 8 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of vertebrate


1826, in the meaning defined above


1820, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for vertebrate


New Latin Vertebrata, from neuter plural of vertebratus


New Latin vertebratus, from Latin, jointed, from vertebra

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The first known use of vertebrate was in 1820

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Last Updated

14 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Vertebrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for vertebrate


ver·​te·​brate | \ ˈvər-tə-brət How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) \

Kids Definition of vertebrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: having vertebrae or a backbone Mammals are vertebrate animals.



Kids Definition of vertebrate (Entry 2 of 2)

: an animal (as a fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, or mammal) that has a backbone extending down the back of the body


ver·​te·​brate | \ ˈvərt-ə-brət How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) , -ˌbrāt How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) \

Medical Definition of vertebrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having a spinal column
2 : of or relating to the subphylum Vertebrata



Medical Definition of vertebrate (Entry 2 of 2)

: an animal of the subphylum Vertebrata

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