from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of, relating to, or characteristic of life: See Synonyms at living.
  • adj. Necessary to the continuation of life; life-sustaining: a vital organ; vital nutrients.
  • adj. Full of life; animated: "The population of the teeming, vital slum . . . declined” ( Rick Hampson).
  • adj. Imparting life or animation; invigorating: the sun's vital rays.
  • adj. Necessary to continued existence or effectiveness; essential: "Irrigation was vital to early civilization” ( William H. McNeill). "A vital component of any democracy is a free labor movement” ( Bayard Rustin).
  • adj. Concerned with or recording data pertinent to lives: vital records.
  • adj. Biology Used or done on a living cell or tissue: vital dyes; vital staining.
  • adj. Destructive to life; fatal: a vital injury.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Relating to, or characteristic of life.
  • adj. Necessary to the continuation of life; being the seat of life; being that on which life depends.
  • adj. Invigorating or life-giving.
  • adj. Necessary to continued existence.
  • adj. Relating to the recording of life events.
  • adj. Very important.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Belonging or relating to life, either animal or vegetable
  • adj. Contributing to life; necessary to, or supporting, life.
  • adj. Containing life; living.
  • adj. Being the seat of life; being that on which life depends; mortal.
  • adj. Very necessary; highly important; essential.
  • adj. Capable of living; in a state to live; viable.
  • n. A vital part; one of the vitals.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to life, either animal or vegetable: as, vital energies.
  • Contributing to life; necessary to life: as,vital air; vital blood.
  • Containing life; living.
  • Being the seat of life; being that on which life, depends; hence, essential to existence; indispensable.
  • Capable of living; viable.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. manifesting or characteristic of life
  • adj. full of spirit
  • adj. urgently needed; absolutely necessary
  • adj. performing an essential function in the living body


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin vītālis, from vīta, life.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin vītālis ("of life, life-giving"), from vīta ("life"), from vīvō ("live").


  • The geologic records attest the fact, as well as the ever-acting vital law; and it is enough for us to know, with sturdy old Richard Hooker, that all law -- and especially all _vital_ law -- "has her seat in the bosom of God, and her voice is the harmony of the world."

    Life: Its True Genesis

  • If I love my mother, it is because there is established between me and her a direct, powerful circuit of vital magnetism, call it what you will, but a direct flow of dynamic _vital_ interchange and intercourse.

    Fantasia of the Unconscious

  • But if religion is not consciously vital to the Filipinos, as they themselves would conceive and act on it (and I make the assertion in the assumption that the reader understands as I do by _consciously vital_ that for which the individual or the race is willing to die singly or collectively), the unprejudiced observer must admit that it is vital to their ultimate evolution, vital in just the sense that any function is vital to one who is in need of it.

    A Woman's Impression of the Philippines

  • Is it a fact that the only significance to the term vital is that we have not yet been able to explain these processes to our entire satisfaction?

    The Story of the Living Machine A Review of the Conclusions of Modern Biology in Regard to the Mechanism Which Controls the Phenomena of Living Activity

  • Maybe the term vital organ also incorporates such things as bone marrow.

  • Obama says increasing government revenue through tax hikes would prevent the need to cut what he called vital programs such as student loans, medical research and government healthcare for elderly Americans.

    Obama, Republican Lawmakers Debate Debt Crisis

  • I am somewhat startled at what you define as vital dimensions, since to me it seems like you strongly derive them from your own preferences which might be culturally influenced and thus might lead you to have a lower utility from the things on offer in European countries than the average European who will have preferences for other things than those you define as vital.

    Denmark and Sweden: What I'm Expecting, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • CLANCY: U.S. President Bush urging senators to pass what he calls a vital bill today.

    CNN Transcript Sep 28, 2006

  • I don't know if it has anything to do with it, but there had been before, a massive campaign on the part of -- humanitarian groups and aid groups saying how dire the situation would be for the Iraqi population if those facilities, what they call vital facilities, electricity, power plants, water treatment plants, were to be hit.

    CNN Transcript Mar 22, 2003

  • The Ngobeni commission into allegations that Mpumalanga deputy speaker, Cynthia Maropeng abused her position to enrich herself cancelled its scheduled hearings on Thursday night after receiving what it called vital new evidence.

    ANC Daily News Briefing


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • And your eyes now often tell me

    That your once vital talent to extract joy

    From the air

    Has fallen into a sleep.

    - Hafiz, 'The Theatre of Freedom', from 'The Subject Tonight is Love' translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

    August 11, 2008

  • 'No one seems to realise how vital my supply of oxygen is'

    - Peter Reading, C, 1984

    July 23, 2008

  • Money is vital to the success of the program.

    April 14, 2007

  • contronymic: lively vs. deadly as in "vital wound"

    December 10, 2006