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Vertebrae vs. Vertebra: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 13, 2023
"Vertebra" is the singular term for one of the small bones forming the backbone, while "vertebrae" is the plural form, referring to multiple such bones.

Key Differences

A vertebra is a single bone in the spine, part of the vertebral column that supports the body and protects the spinal cord. While, vertebrae refer to more than one of these bones, collectively forming the backbone.
Each vertebra is a distinct, individual bone, characterized by its structure suitable for support and flexibility. The term vertebrae encompasses the entire series of these bones, from the cervical to the lumbar region.
Anatomically, a vertebra has a complex structure including the vertebral body, arch, and spinal processes. Whereas, vertebrae together facilitate movement and provide structural integrity to the spine.
Injuries or conditions can affect a single vertebra or multiple vertebrae, impacting spinal health and function. The health of the vertebrae as a whole is crucial for bodily support and movement.
In medical or biological contexts, it's important to distinguish between vertebra and vertebrae to accurately describe spinal conditions or anatomy.

Comparison Chart


Singular, referring to one bone
Plural, referring to multiple bones


Part of the vertebral column
Collective term for the entire spine


Individual bone with body, arch, and processes
Series of bones forming the spinal column


Supports and protects a section of the spinal cord
Facilitates movement, supports the body


In describing a single spinal bone
In discussing the spine or multiple spinal bones

Vertebrae and Vertebra Definitions


The plural form of vertebra.
Several vertebrae were fractured in the accident.


One spinal bone among many.
A vertebra at the lower back was causing pain.


The collective bones in the vertebral column.
The vertebrae are vital for bodily support.


A single bone of the spinal column.
The X-ray showed a fractured vertebra.


The series of spinal bones.
Age-related degeneration affected his vertebrae.


An individual segment of the vertebral column.
Each vertebra has a distinct shape and function.


The bones making up the spine.
The human spine consists of 33 vertebrae.


A single unit in the spine.
The surgeon focused on the damaged vertebra.


Multiple bones in the spinal column.
The MRI showed misalignment in her vertebrae.


One of the individual bones in the backbone.
The slipped disc was between the fifth and sixth vertebra.


Any of the segments, composed of cartilage in cartilaginous fishes and of bone in other vertebrates, that form the spinal column.


Any of the segments, composed of cartilage in cartilaginous fishes and of bone in other vertebrates, that form the spinal column.


; the bones that make up the spinal column.


(skeleton) Any of the bony or cartilaginous segments which make up the backbone, consisting in some lower vertebrates of several distinct elements which never become united, and in higher vertebrates having a short more or less cylindrical body whose ends articulate by pads of elastic or cartilaginous tissue with those of adjacent vertebrae and a bony arch that encloses the spinal cord.
Anticlinal vertebra


One of the serial segments of the spinal column.


One of the central ossicles in each joint of the arms of an ophiuran.


One of the bony segments of the spinal column


How many vertebrae are in the human spine?

The human spine typically consists of 33 vertebrae.

Do animals have vertebrae?

Yes, all vertebrate animals have vertebrae.

Are all vertebrae the same shape?

No, vertebrae vary in shape depending on their location in the spine.

Can a vertebra heal after a fracture?

Yes, with proper medical treatment, a fractured vertebra can heal.

What is a slipped disc in terms of vertebrae?

A slipped disc occurs when a spinal disc herniates between two vertebrae.

Can vertebrae issues cause back pain?

Yes, problems with vertebrae are a common cause of back pain.

What is the function of the vertebrae?

The vertebrae protect the spinal cord and provide structural support.

Can you move a single vertebra?

Individual vertebrae have limited movement, but collectively they allow for flexibility.

What separates individual vertebrae?

Intervertebral discs separate and cushion individual vertebrae.

Are vertebrae bones hollow?

Vertebrae have a hollow section that allows for the passage of the spinal cord.

What is a vertebral fracture?

A vertebral fracture is a break or crack in one of the vertebrae.

How are vertebrae numbered?

Vertebrae are numbered from top to bottom within each section of the spine.

Is the vertebrae structure different in various animals?

Yes, vertebrae structures vary among different animals.

Are vertebrae part of the skeletal system?

Yes, vertebrae are a central part of the skeletal system.

Can vertebrae degenerate over time?

Yes, vertebrae can degenerate, especially with age.

Can exercises strengthen vertebrae?

Exercises can strengthen the muscles around the vertebrae.

What is the top vertebra called?

The top vertebra is called the atlas.

How are vertebrae connected to each other?

Vertebrae are connected by intervertebral discs and ligaments.

Can arthritis affect vertebrae?

Yes, arthritis can affect the joints between vertebrae.

Do vertebrae vary in size?

Yes, vertebrae vary in size depending on their location in the spine.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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