El Niño

El Ni·​ño | \ el-ˈnē-nyō How to pronounce El Niño (audio) \
plural El Niños

Definition of El Niño

: an irregularly recurring flow of unusually warm surface waters from the Pacific Ocean toward and along the western coast of South America that prevents upwelling of nutrient-rich cold deep water and that disrupts typical regional and global weather patterns — compare la niña

Did You Know?

Each year around Christmas time, a warm equatorial current flows southward along the coast of Peru. In the 19th century, Peruvian fisherman named that annual current "El Niño" in honor of the Christ child (el niño means "the child" in Spanish). Later, when scientists noted that in some years this warm current flow is more intense than usual, they adopted the name and applied it to that more potent but erratic climatic phenomenon. Now El Niño is used almost exclusively for the severe episodes rather than for the annual ones to which it was originally applied.

First Known Use of El Niño

1896, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for El Niño

Spanish, literally, the child (i.e., the Christ child); from the appearance of the flow at the Christmas season

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The first known use of El Niño was in 1896

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Cite this Entry

“El Niño.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/El%20Ni%C3%B1o. Accessed 30 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for El Niño

El Niño

How to pronounce El Niño (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of El Niño

: a flow of unusually warm water along the western coast of South America that causes many changes in weather in other places (such as a lot of rain in areas that are usually dry)

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