Definition of spine in US English:



  • 1A series of vertebrae extending from the skull to the small of the back, enclosing the spinal cord and providing support for the thorax and abdomen; the backbone.

    • ‘For example, when a bony joint in the spine, called a vertebra, is out of place, it is called a vertebral subluxation.’
    • ‘Direct injury to the spine may cause a bone fracture anywhere along your vertebral column.’
    • ‘I had fractured two vertebrae in my upper spine between my shoulder blades.’
    • ‘A leg press machine is ideal, if available, as the spine is supported and the exercise simulates functional activities.’
    • ‘I tore my dura, which is the wrap around my spine which holds in spinal fluid.’
    • ‘It works the muscles of your lower and middle back, which support and extend your spine.’
    • ‘In addition to testing spinal motion in flexion, the standing child should be asked to extend the spine by bending backward.’
    • ‘Cervical nerve roots exit the cervical spine through the intervertebral foramina between the vertebrae.’
    • ‘By doing this, there is generally a lift of the rib cage and a straightening of the upper spine or cervical vertebra.’
    • ‘From the skull extends the spine of the whale, and the hump of the whale rises above the larger vertebrae.’
    • ‘It can result in spina bifida, where the bones of the spine do not completely enclose the spinal cord.’
    • ‘The bones most likely to break as a result of osteoporosis are the hip, wrist and the vertebrae of the spine.’
    • ‘A few other causes of low back pain are arthritis in the bones of your spine and narrowing of your spinal canal.’
    • ‘The coccygeus is a small muscle of the pelvic diaphragm, which connects the ischial spine to the sacrum and the coccyx.’
    • ‘One is a broken awl, probably made from the neural spine of a bison vertebra.’
    • ‘Paget's disease most commonly affects your skull, spine and the bones in your arms, legs and pelvis.’
    • ‘This applies to an abnormality of an intervertebral disc in the spine.’
    • ‘Occasionally some fibers arising from the scapular spine extend superficially over the surface of the muscle and end in the skin of the arm.’
    • ‘Below the lumbar spine is the sacrum, which is actually five vertebrae fused into one bone.’
    • ‘The skull, spine and spinal movement, the pelvis, upper and lower legs and foot movements are examined.’
    backbone, spinal column, vertebral column, vertebrae
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    1. 1.1 A thing's central feature or main source of strength.
      ‘players who will form the spine of our team’
      • ‘With Thierry Henry, a healthy Sol and a Viera who doesn't have to carry the midfield by himself, the spine of the team is still marvellously strong, it just needs adding to.’
      • ‘The bearded coach is looking to the spine of the team to supply the base for victory.’
      • ‘The main spine would run between the existing and heavily-used west coast and east coast lines, with spurs to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.’
      • ‘All but full forward Noel Costelloe in the central spine of the team were switched from their starting positions.’
      • ‘Pocklington's Mal Harrison provided the spine to his team's 154-7 with a steady 57.’
      • ‘He may have been missing the spine of his team, but there was no lack of backbone in his team's performance.’
      • ‘That team has solid foundations, because the spine of the side is very strong.’
      • ‘He chose to leave wingers Derek Townsley and Kevin Twaddle on the bench in an attempt to strengthen the spine of the side, and it proved a fine piece of judgment.’
      • ‘Key players down the spine of the team - notably Hyppia, Henchoz and Hamann - are starting to betray their age.’
      • ‘The spine incorporates Main and Fox streets, where pedestrians treading on the colourful paved streets have right of way.’
      • ‘No Alan Cummins, no Alan Browne, no Noel Keane, the spine of the team.’
      • ‘Farina has positioned them down the spine of the team; Moore at centre back, Cahill in the midfield and Aloisi up front.’
      • ‘Despite the kitty being slightly emptier than last season, Patterson has managed to retain the spine of his side and even to build upon it.’
      • ‘No Turley, Duffy, Martyn or Knott - four major players missing from the spine of the team.’
      • ‘Strange can paper over these cracks, but much more alarming for him are the below par performances of two players he was entitled to regard as helping to shape the spine of his side.’
      • ‘They had a solid spine in central defenders David Gorry and Stuart Gleeson and midfielders Conlon and the youthful Declan Gormley.’
      • ‘He has featured in the spine of any Aberdeen sides reaching out towards respectability in the past seven years.’
      • ‘Olivier Tebily and Stephane Mahe have hardly played since then and with Chris Sutton already on board, the spine of the team was taking shape.’
      • ‘Sited at the northern end of the campus, the building wraps around a shared plaza that is bisected by one of the university's main pedestrian spines.’
      • ‘In accommodating the redoubtable spine of the side Strachan inherited, only Aliadiere of the summer striking signings was deployed from the start.’
      mainstay, backbone, cornerstone, foundation, basis
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    2. 1.2 Resolution or strength of character.
      • ‘But even his critics, like me, have to point out that he gave us some spine, he gave us some soul.’
      • ‘Still, it's nice to see the Beltway Dems showing some spine on this one.’
      • ‘But wait, surely our PM might step in around election time and show some spine.’
      • ‘First, a little sweetener never goes amiss to put some spine into your bought-and-paid-for pol.’
      • ‘He is one of the few men who had enough spine to stand up to Mrs Thatcher and thus found himself out of a job for fifteen years.’
      • ‘Sabu's youthful charm and popularity encouraged Alex to build his future Empire films with a more careful regard for character and a stronger dramatic spine.’
      • ‘And there are men and women of spine in the private media in Zimbabwe who are determined to continue doing their job despite all the risks.’
      • ‘Crikey can bring you a sneak preview from what is a wonderful piece that Herald editors will hopefully develop some spine over and run in tomorrow's paper.’
      • ‘It seems more plausible that this was not an attempt to put spine in the United Nations and NATO, but to discredit them.’
      • ‘Australia desperately needs a statesman/woman to get through the very difficult times ahead, someone with integrity and spine.’
      • ‘They're also complete cowards lacking any kind of spine.’
      • ‘I'm not a big fan of Frist to begin with, but I think Allen has more spine.’
      • ‘And if that fails and you show some spine, then they simply lie about you.’
      • ‘In another case, also featuring a desperate mother and a child who'd gone bad, Judge Hatchett lectured the mother to get some spine.’
      • ‘The actors need a lot more work with their props and seeing as we're supposed to be watching savage highland warriors, the men need to grow a bit of spine.’
      • ‘McCormack is breaking with his pattern of cowardice and exhibiting some spine for a change.’
      • ‘Walls are for cowards - those of massive ego but flimsy spine.’
      strength of character, strength of will, firmness of purpose, firmness, resolution, resolve, determination, fortitude, mettle, moral fibre, backbone, steel, nerve, spirit, pluck, pluckiness, courage, courageousness, bravery, braveness, valour, manliness
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  • 2The part of a book's jacket or cover that encloses the inner edges of the pages, facing outward when the book is on a shelf and typically bearing the title and the author's name.

    • ‘The books remained on the shelf, but their spines were broken.’
    • ‘It is beautifully bound in half-leather, with richly gold-tooled spine and sumptuous marbled end-papers.’
    • ‘You may need to repair the spine and actual page bindings in order to install a new cover.’
    • ‘Yet its opulent, mouldering furnishings appear intact, its books look down from the shelves, their spines unspoiled but their pages crumbled by termites.’
    • ‘She'd run her fingers gently over the book spines and read the titles he kept on the shelf above his writing desk.’
    • ‘As she entered the waiting room, she noticed Adam standing by the bookcase, looking at the titles printed on the spines of the books.’
    • ‘The copyright page of my Random House Collegiate Dictionary, like the book's cover and spine, disappeared years ago.’
    • ‘Most packages contain two tapes within a box about the size of a book, arranged on bookstore shelves with the spine displaying the author and title.’
    • ‘Another strange detail in the image is revealed through a close examination of the book spines on a shelf in the room, among which a single title is reversed.’
    • ‘She brought her piano from home and put it against one wall, right next to a bookshelf containing some board games, not far from shelves lined with books, their spines worn and inviting.’
    • ‘It had been several minutes when Lara noticed Sasha's head turned sideways, reading the titles of the books on their spines.’
    • ‘Niko laughed at me when I ran my fingers across the book's spines and flipped through the pages in order to breathe in the scent of crisp parchment.’
    • ‘Yet the figurative illusion disappears when one peers under the glass shelves to read the spines of both Chinese and English books; then it is obvious these are not bodies, but books.’
    • ‘It's fantastic news which should put the rest of us who aspire to have our names on book spines to shame…’
    • ‘Fitzsimmons moved his light around and saw that the blood was splattered over one of the shelves and ran in rivulets down spines of the books.’
    • ‘Skyway's trails are easy, and its northeastern section provides a dramatic view of the Book Cliffs, deeply eroded shale walls that resemble taupe book spines lined up on a shelf.’
    • ‘On the very first visit as I browsed the shelves, the name Miklos Szentkuthy on the spine of a book caught my eye and brought a flood of memories.’
    • ‘The TV cabinet was a curbside find that Nan disguised with old book covers and spines to make it look like a bookcase.’
    • ‘There's two stacks: one with bent spines and dull covers, the other with straight spines and shiny perfect covers.’
    • ‘Their copies gleam shiny black and perfect, with uncracked spines, uncreased pages, and a redesigned cover.’
  • 3Zoology Botany
    Any hard, pointed defensive projection or structure, such as a prickle of a hedgehog, a spike-like projection on a sea urchin, a sharp ray in a fish's fin, or a spike on the stem of a plant.

    • ‘The dorsal and pectoral fins have hard spines whereas the other rays are soft like the anal and caudal fins.’
    • ‘The sheath of thin bony plates extends beyond the head to form spines dorsally and ventrally.’
    • ‘Moreover, the auxiliary spines project from the ventral spines at approximately the same angle.’
    • ‘The fins have strong leading rays, which form a row of sharp spines along the dorsal fin.’
    • ‘Bream have a needle sharp set of spines running through the dorsal fin similar to bass.’
    needle, quill, bristle, barb, spike, prickle
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  • 4Geology
    A tall mass of viscous lava extruded from a volcano.

    • ‘It's an area of tundra and lakes with the volcanic spine of the Alaskan peninsula visible in the distance.’
    • ‘East of Eagle Harbor, Brockway Mountain Drive climbs the Keweenaw's volcanic spine.’
    • ‘From north and south, swamps or dense jungle rose toward a volcanic spine that was thought for decades to be too wild to support human life.’


Late Middle English: shortening of Old French espine, or from Latin spina ‘thorn, prickle, backbone’.