Definition of vestigial in English:



  • 1Forming a very small remnant of something that was once greater or more noticeable.

    ‘he felt a vestigial flicker of anger from last night’
    • ‘This year he was crushed, frankly, by Patrick Campion, who is not only much larger, but is entirely unencumbered by any vestigial table manners.’
    • ‘His vision of modernity has been to preside over the House in a vestigial remnant of the Speaker's traditional costume, so that he resembles a schoolmaster summoned abruptly from the lunch table.’
    • ‘But perhaps the more canny readers can indeed read backwards from these general remarks and dimly perceive the vestigial outline of the example which occasioned them.’
    • ‘Despite vestigial temperence tendencies, Camberwell even boasts a pub, the Palace, which used to be a regular meat market on Saturday nights, until a vegan action group forced its closure.’
    • ‘At the time, when something of which you had hope is thus disintegrating, there's not much to do except hang on to your vestigial self and hope not to be made too lastingly cynical by the process.’
    • ‘This kind of argument, although true, overlooks the underlying cause of this kind of behavior - the primitive, vestigial, human survival instinct for tribalism.’
    • ‘I think that Bob Carr is using you to score political points and any vestigial respect I felt for him has vanished in a puff of political posturing.’
    • ‘Proportional representation is also vestigial here.’
    • ‘This means that the essentially linguistic nature of these pursuits is adulterated; they are vestigial modes of the old ‘logic.’’
    • ‘Plans for rebuilding a wrecked country are vestigial.’
    • ‘This is a good thing for me, since my particular configuration of openness, cleverness and vestigial youth tends to make even my most loved ones a little wary of what I'm going to ask of them next.’
    • ‘By Monday night, though, in his 48-hour-warning speech, the references to international law and the United Nations had become vestigial.’
    • ‘What is totally lacking is any vestigial sense of wishing to appease the people responsible for these outrages.’
    • ‘Now whether it's a vestigial remnant of a day past is something that I question very much.’
    • ‘Is it vestigial imperialism on the part of sports journalists?’
    • ‘All stories enwrapped in this literature have this attempt to find consolation in inevitability: the certainty of living with vestigial belief systems and adherences.’
    • ‘Perhaps this attitude stemmed from some vestigial Old World notions of hierarchy, division of labor, or even the unseemliness of the music that they produced.’
    • ‘He knew that these devices were already vestigial.’
    • ‘Some form of proportional representation was the key to ensuring that Scottish Labour could never rule alone - its vestigial leftist tendencies would always be constrained by the need for coalition partners.’
    • ‘The show is about an evil man with some vestigial traces of a conscience making his way in a world that has decided that feeling warm and fuzzy about yourself is more important than being a decent person.’
    remaining, surviving, residual, leftover, lingering
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  • 2Biology
    (of an organ or part of the body) degenerate, rudimentary, or atrophied, having become functionless in the course of evolution.

    ‘the vestigial wings of kiwis are entirely hidden’
    • ‘It used to be maintained that there were almost 200 vestigial organs in the human body.’
    • ‘The point is not that vestigial organs have no function whatsoever.’
    • ‘Nipples in men are similarly vestigial, Dr. Lloyd pointed out.’
    • ‘These are vestigial toenails, signs that rattlers are related to lizards and shed their feet somewhere along the evolutionary ladder.’
    • ‘The belief that wisdom teeth are vestigial organs that lack a function in the body (as was previously believed for the appendix), is less common today but still evident.’
    rudimentary, undeveloped, incomplete, embryonic, immature
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