General English

  • adjective standing or rising straight up

General Science


  • adjective at right angles to the Earth’s surface or to another line or plane
  • noun a vertical line or plane


  • Perpendicular to, or situated along a plane perpendicular to a horizon or a base line. Also, operating in a plane perpendicular to a horizon or a baseline.
  • At a right angle to a horizontal line.
  • Situated at the highest point.

Information & Library Science

  • adjective upright, forming an angle of 90° to the ground

Origin & History of “vertical”

Latin vertex originally meant ‘whirl’ (it was derived from vertere ‘turn’, source also of English verse, version, etc, and was itself borrowed into English in the 16th century). It came to be applied metaphorically to the ‘spiral of hair on top of the head’, and was then extended further to ‘highest point’. From it was derived late Latin verticālis, which passed into English via French vertical. It originally denoted ‘of the highest point in the sky, the zenith’, and since this is directly overhead, by the 18th century vertical had come to be used for ‘perpendicular’. Also from vertere came Latin vertīgō ‘whirling’, borrowed into English as vertigo ‘dizziness’ (16th c.).