late 14c., "endowed with the power of growth," from Old French vegetatif "(naturally) growing," from Medieval Latin vegetativus, from vegetat-, past participle stem of vegetare (see vegetable (adj.)). Middle English transferred sense was "characterized by growth." Modern pathological sense of "brain-dead, lacking intellectual activity, mentally inert" is from 1893, via notion of having only such functions which perform involuntarily or unconsciously and thus are likened to the processes of vegetable growth.
updated on March 11, 2014
Dictionary entries near vegetative