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Borrowing from Latin dorsum (the back).



dorsum (plural dorsa)

  1. (anatomy) The back or dorsal region on the surface of an animal.
    Synonym: back
    1. The back of the tongue, used for articulating dorsal consonants.
    2. The top of the foot or the back of the hand.
  2. (geology) A ridge on a hill, or on the surface of a planet or moon.
  3. (astronomy) Theta Capricorni, a star on the back of the Goat.

Related terms[edit]





Alternative forms[edit]

  • dorsus (masculine)
  • dossum ('vulgar' form with assimilation of /rs/)


From Proto-Italic *dorsom, with no certain cognates in any other Indo-European languages. Has been linked to deorsum (downwards) < *dēvorsum, but their contemporaneous use suggests that one was not a phonetic development of the other.[1] A potential connection with a Proto-Celtic *dros-man, giving Old Irish druimm (back, ridge), is unclear.



dorsum n (genitive dorsī); second declension

  1. (anatomy) the back (part of the body between the neck and buttocks)
  2. (transferred sense) the ridge, summit of a hill, a reef in the sea; any elevation
    • 29 BCE – 19 BCE, Virgil, Aeneid 1.108-110:
      Trīs Notus abreptās in saxa latentia torquet —
      saxa vocant Italī mediīs quae in flūctibus ārās —
      dorsum immāne marī summō [...].
      Three [ships] were taken away [by] the Southwind, hurled into hidden rocks – rocks the Italians call the Altars, which [are] in the middle of the waves – a vast reef near the surface of the sea.
      (This “vast reef” or “huge ridge” posed a hidden danger; understood more imaginatively, a “monstrous spine” of rock destroyed the ships. Notus was the Greek south wind.)
    • Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita I, 3:
      Quae ab situ porrectae in dorso urbis Longa Alba appellata
      This [new city] was named Alba Longa, from its position, as it lay stretched out along the ridge


Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative dorsum dorsa
Genitive dorsī dorsōrum
Dative dorsō dorsīs
Accusative dorsum dorsa
Ablative dorsō dorsīs
Vocative dorsum dorsa


Derived terms[edit]


  • Vulgar Latin: dossum (see there for further descendants)
  • Catalan: dors
  • English: dorsum
  • Esperanto: dorso
  • Italian: dorso
  • Portuguese: dorso
  • Spanish: dorso


  • dorsum”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • dorsum”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • dorsum in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition with additions by D. P. Carpenterius, Adelungius and others, edited by Léopold Favre, 1883–1887)
  • dorsum in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette
  1. ^ Ramat, The Indo-European Languages