ə-ˈbis How to pronounce abyss (audio)
 also  ˈa-(ˌ)bis
: an immeasurably deep gulf or great space
gazed down into the gaping abyss
the ocean's abysses
(figurative) a widening abyss between the rich and the poor
: intellectual or moral depths
an abyss of moral depravity
an abyss of despair
: the bottomless gulf, pit, or chaos of the old cosmogonies

Examples of abyss in a Sentence

looking down at the dark ocean from the ship's rail, the cruise passenger felt as though he was staring into an abyss
Recent Examples on the Web In it, a grieving mail carrier finds a mysterious letter that resurrects her husband from the dead, and must race against time to make three sacrifices before he’s banished to the abyss for eternity. Selome Hailu, Variety, 12 Sep. 2023 Yes, the unforgettable strings are present, but the song’s delirious dance-pop energy has been subverted into an unsettling, disorienting electronic abyss, making this a villainous vocal showcase for Simard and Godley, both two-time Tony Award nominees. Joe Lynch, Billboard, 2 Aug. 2023 Having lost touch with his brother the previous year, Vazquez fell into an abyss of guilt. Anna Guaracao, BostonGlobe.com, 24 Aug. 2023 The boundary between mainstream astrobiology and the fringe is the idea that extraterrestrials have crossed the abyss of space to come see us — and that the governments of the world have somehow kept the evidence a secret. Seth Fletcher, New York Times, 24 Aug. 2023 García finally caught up to one, driving a 93 mph middle-of-the-plate offering from Slade Cecconi into the abyss behind center field in the seventh inning. Evan Grant, Dallas News, 22 Aug. 2023 Maybe humanity is a rope over an abyss, but the surest way to fall into it is through the pursuit of superpowers through technology. Rachel Shin, Fortune, 13 Aug. 2023 Most locals now live in Bagnoregio, the town sitting across the canyon, while access to Civita itself — now just a nub of the original town, the rest having fallen into the abyss — is via a long, steep walkway. Julia Buckley, Travel + Leisure, 9 Aug. 2023 Amber Bourke stands on the ocean floor, facing away from a black abyss while holding her breath. Amanda Lee Myers, USA TODAY, 5 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'abyss.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Late Latin abyssus, borrowed from Greek ábyssos "bottomless, unfathomable, (as noun) bottomless gulf," from a- a- entry 2 + byssós "depth of the sea," probably going back to *byth-yos, derivative of bythós "depth, deepest part, bottom," probably of pre-Greek substratal origin

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of abyss was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near abyss

Cite this Entry

“Abyss.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abyss. Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a gulf so deep or a space so great that it cannot be measured

More from Merriam-Webster on abyss

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