Word of the Day – Dorsal

Word of the Day : October 21, 2020


adjective DOR-sul


1 : relating to or situated near or on the back especially of an animal or of one of its parts

2 : situated out of or directed away from the axis : abaxial

Did you know?

The most famous use of dorsal is with fin, whether it conjures the ominous dorsal fin of sharks or the benign, even benevolent, image of porpoises and dolphins. Less well-known is the botanical sense of dorsal, meaning “facing away from the axis or stem” (thus the underside of a leaf can be the dorsal side), or the linguistic sense referring to articulations made with the back part of the tongue (\k\ and \g\, for example). Dorsal can be used of non-living things too (in particular, the backs of airplanes), as can its opposite, ventral, which means “relating to the belly.” Dorsal descends from Latin dorsum (“back”), which also gave us dossier (via French, for a bundle of documents labeled on the back) and reredos (“an ornamental screen or partition wall behind an altar”).


I might have identified the bird as a yellow-throated vireo if I’d had more than a dorsal view.

“In later films, the bony dorsal plates that run along [Godzilla’s] spine and tail glow ominously as he unleashes a concentrated blast of atomic breath from his jaws, blasting everything it touches.” — Michael Abatemarco, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 4 Sept. 2020