a. Of, relating to, or characteristic of life: vital strength. See Synonyms at living.
b. Necessary to the continuation of life; life-sustaining: a vital organ; vital nutrients.
c. Used or done on a living cell or tissue: vital dyes; vital staining.
d. Concerned with or recording data pertinent to lives: vital records.
2. Full of life or energy; animated: "The population of the teeming, vital slum ... declined" (Rick Hampson).
a. Necessary to continued existence or effectiveness: "Irrigation was vital to early civilization" (William H. McNeill).
b. Extremely important; essential: "A vital component of any democracy is a free labor movement" (Bayard Rustin).
4. Destructive to life; fatal: a vital injury.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin vītālis, from vīta, life; see gwei- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.