Definition of vertebra in US English:


nounPlural vertebrae

  • Each of the series of small bones forming the backbone, having several projections for articulation and muscle attachment, and a hole through which the spinal cord passes.

    In the human spine (or vertebral column) there are seven cervical vertebrae (in the neck), twelve thoracic vertebrae (to which the ribs are attached), and five lumbar vertebrae (in the lower back). In addition, five fused vertebrae form the sacrum, and four the coccyx

    • ‘The other pairs form joints with those of adjoining vertebrae and provide attachment for muscles and ligaments.’
    • ‘The spine is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae, plus the sacrum and coccyx.’
    • ‘The ventral keel is partially broken, but is observed to vanish near the middle of the ventral surface of the vertebra.’
    • ‘A fracture of the transverse process of a lumbar vertebra may damage the ureter.’
    • ‘Running through a small channel toward the rear of the vertebrae is the spinal cord.’
    • ‘He fell 20 feet off a ladder breaking three vertebrae and exposing his spinal cord.’
    • ‘The entire neural spine and arch of the first two vertebrae of this series are exposed.’
    • ‘The sternum may incorporate additional vertebrae and is referred to as a synsacrum.’
    • ‘If the lumbar vertebra is completely anterior to the sacral base, spondylolisthesis has occurred.’
    • ‘Another of the positions is keeping the back straight and erect, with the vertebrae of the spinal column in a straight line.’
    • ‘No ossification centers were evident for either the cervical or the last lumbar vertebrae.’
    • ‘Males possess a larger spine on the first vertebra behind the pelvic girdle.’
    • ‘The transverse process of the seventh vertebra may be bifid, and occasionally the costal process is replaced by a cervical rib.’
    • ‘The trapezius attaches to the base of the skull, midback vertebrae and collarbone.’
    • ‘This is between bone and bone, as between the spinal vertebrae, or above and below a joint.’
    • ‘The neural spines in posterior dorsal vertebrae lack distinct lateral projections.’
    • ‘The somites give rise to the vertebrae, to the muscles of the trunk and limbs, and to the dermis of the skin.’
    • ‘Ribs curled free of the chest like those of a skeleton, and the vertebrae protruded in a line of jagged dorsal fins.’
    • ‘The dura mater of the spinal cord is separated from the periosteum of the vertebrae by an epidural space.’
    • ‘In Brachycephalus, there is a dermal bony shield that ossifies dorsal to the vertebrae.’
    backbone, spinal column, vertebral column, vertebrae
    View synonyms


Early 17th century: from Latin, from vertere ‘to turn’.