El Niño

noun El Ni·ño \el-ˈnē-nyō\

Definition of El Niño


El Niños

  1. :  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

El Niño was our Word of the Day on 09/03/2014. Hear the podcast!

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.

Origin and Etymology of el niño

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

First Known Use: 1896

EL NIÑO Defined for English Language Learners

El Niño

noun El Ni·ño \el-ˈnē-nyō\

Definition of El Niño for English Language Learners

  • : 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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to cast off or become cast off

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