A vertebrate is an animal that has a backbone and a skeleton. Vertebrate animals include humans.

When you think about vertebrates, think about bones: this word has to do with animals that have a lot of bones, in the form of a skeleton. It especially refers to animals with a backbone, which protects their spinal cord. Vertebrates have many bones, including a skull which protects their brains, which tend to be large. People, dogs, horses, lizards, dogs, cats, and many other animals are in the vertebrate category. Animals without a backbone are called invertebrates.

Definitions of vertebrate

n animals having a bony or cartilaginous skeleton with a segmented spinal column and a large brain enclosed in a skull or cranium

show 12 examples...
hide 12 examples...
incomplete skeleton of female found in eastern Ethiopia in 1974
Sir Barton
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1919
Gallant Fox
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1930
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1935
War Admiral
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1937
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1941
Count Fleet
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1943
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1946
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1948
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1973
Seattle Slew
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1977
thoroughbred that won the triple crown in 1978
show 60 types...
hide 60 types...
fetus, foetus
an unborn or unhatched vertebrate in the later stages of development showing the main recognizable features of the mature animal
higher vertebrates (reptiles, birds and mammals) possessing an amnion during development
any member of the Amniota
aquatic vertebrate
animal living wholly or chiefly in or on water
a vertebrate animal possessing true jaws
warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates characterized by feathers and forelimbs modified as wings
cold-blooded vertebrate typically living on land but breeding in water; aquatic larvae undergo metamorphosis into adult form
reptile, reptilian
any cold-blooded vertebrate of the class Reptilia including tortoises, turtles, snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles, and extinct forms
mammal, mammalian
any warm-blooded vertebrate having the skin more or less covered with hair; young are born alive except for the small subclass of monotremes and nourished with milk
a vertebrate animal having four feet or legs or leglike appendages
monster, teras
(medicine) a grossly malformed and usually nonviable fetus
a human fetus whose weight is less than 0.5 kilogram when removed or expelled from the mother's body
agnathan, jawless fish, jawless vertebrate
eel-shaped vertebrate without jaws or paired appendages including the cyclostomes and some extinct forms
fish-like vertebrate with bony plates on head and upper body; dominant in seas and rivers during the Devonian; considered the earliest vertebrate with jaws
dickey-bird, dickeybird, dicky-bird, dickybird
small bird; adults talking to children sometimes use these words to refer to small birds
adult male bird
adult female bird
a bird that has built (or is building) a nest
night bird
any bird associated with night: owl; nightingale; nighthawk; etc
bird of passage
any bird that migrates seasonally
most primitive avian type known; extinct bird of the Triassic having bird-like jaw and hollow limbs and breastbone with dinosaur-like tail and hind limbs
Archaeopteryx lithographica, archaeopteryx, archeopteryx
extinct primitive toothed bird of the Jurassic period having a long feathered tail and hollow bones; usually considered the most primitive of all birds
sparrow-sized fossil bird of the Jurassic period to the Cretaceous period having a keeled breastbone and vestigial tail; found in China; considered possibly the second most primitive of all birds
sparrow-sized fossil bird of the Cretaceous period having a vestigial tail; found in Spain; considered possibly the third most primitive of all birds
extinct primitive toothed bird with a long feathered tail and three free clawed digits on each wing
flightless bird, ratite, ratite bird
flightless birds having flat breastbones lacking a keel for attachment of flight muscles: ostriches; cassowaries; emus; moas; rheas; kiwis; elephant birds
carinate, carinate bird, flying bird
birds having keeled breastbones for attachment of flight muscles
passeriform bird, passerine
perching birds mostly small and living near the ground with feet having 4 toes arranged to allow for gripping the perch; most are songbirds; hatchlings are helpless
nonpasserine bird
chiefly arboreal birds especially of the order Coraciiformes
bird of prey, raptor, raptorial bird
any of numerous carnivorous birds that hunt and kill other animals
Hynerpeton bassetti
fossil amphibian of the Devonian having well-developed forelimbs; found in Pennsylvania
early tetrapod amphibian found in Greenland
caudate, urodele
amphibians that resemble lizards
any of various typically terrestrial amphibians that resemble lizards and that return to water only to breed
anuran, batrachian, frog, salientian, toad, toad frog
any of various tailless stout-bodied amphibians with long hind limbs for leaping; semiaquatic and terrestrial species
blindworm, caecilian
any of the small slender limbless burrowing wormlike amphibians of the order Gymnophiona; inhabit moist soil in tropical regions
an amphibian of the superorder Labyrinthodontia
anapsid, anapsid reptile
primitive reptile having no opening in the temporal region of the skull; all extinct except turtles
diapsid, diapsid reptile
reptile having a pair of openings in the skull behind each eye
Diapsida, subclass Diapsida
used in former classifications to include all living reptiles except turtles; superseded by the two subclasses Lepidosauria and Archosauria
synapsid, synapsid reptile
extinct reptile having a single pair of lateral temporal openings in the skull
gallinacean, gallinaceous bird
heavy-bodied largely ground-feeding domestic or game birds
usually brightly colored zygodactyl tropical birds with short hooked beaks and the ability to mimic sounds
cuculiform bird
birds having zygodactyl feet (except for the touracos)
coraciiform bird
chiefly short-legged arboreal nonpasserine birds that nest in holes
apodiform bird
nonpasserine bird having long wings and weak feet; spends much of its time in flight
caprimulgiform bird
long-winged nonpasserine birds
piciform bird
any of numerous nonpasserine insectivorous climbing birds usually having strong bills for boring wood
forest bird of warm regions of the New World having brilliant lustrous plumage and long tails
aquatic bird
wading and swimming and diving birds of either fresh or salt water
female mammal
animals that nourish their young with milk
any mammal with prominent tusks (especially an elephant or wild boar)
primitive oviparous mammals found only in Australia and Tasmania and New Guinea
primitive pouched mammals found mainly in Australia and the Americas
eutherian, eutherian mammal, placental, placental mammal
mammals having a placenta; all mammals except monotremes and marsupials
fossorial mammal
a burrowing mammal having limbs adapted for digging
an animal especially a mammal having four limbs specialized for walking
a bird that twitters
any of various mostly cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates usually having scales and breathing through gills
an unborn child; a human fetus
Type of:
any animal of the phylum Chordata having a notochord or spinal column

adj having a backbone or spinal column

invertebrate, spineless
lacking a backbone or spinal column

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.