abys·​sal | \ ə-ˈbi-səl How to pronounce abyssal (audio) \

Definition of abyssal

2 : of or relating to the bottom waters of the ocean depths

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Abyssal is a relatively infrequently used word, though it's derived from the more prevalent noun, "abyss." In contrast, the adjective "abysmal" is more common than its corresponding noun "abysm." All four terms descend from the Late Latin word abyssus, which is in turn derived from the Greek abyssos ("bottomless"). "Abyss" and "abysm" are synonymous (both can refer to the mythical bottomless pit in old accounts of the universe or can be used more broadly in reference to any immeasurably deep gulf), but the adjectives "abyssal" and "abysmal" are not used identically. "Abyssal" can mean "incomprehensible," but it's most often found in contexts referring to the bottom of the sea. "Abysmal" shares the oceanographic sense with "abyssal," but it more frequently means "immeasurably deep" or "absolutely wretched."

Examples of abyssal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Beijing announced new tariffs against the US on Friday, deepening the already abyssal trade war between the two countries. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for August 26: G7 Summit, 2020 race, Amazon, military suicides, slavery," 26 Aug. 2019 As an open-source project, C:DDA has its inner workings posted freely online, where anyone with a working knowledge of C++ can dive in and add weapons, recipes, and more information into the simulation's already abyssal depths. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "If You Can't Beat It, Code It," 17 Dec. 2018 Even here, though, abyssal tuba notes exposed a sonic substratum. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The L.A. Philharmonic Celebrates Iceland," 21 Apr. 2017 Before New Horizons flew by, scientists thought there wouldn’t be much in the way of geological activity happening out there on the fringe, where temperatures are decidedly abyssal and materials tend to freeze in place. National Geographic, "5 Amazing Things We’ve Learned a Year After Visiting Pluto," 14 July 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abyssal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of abyssal

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for abyssal

borrowed from Medieval Latin abyssālis, from Late Latin abyssus abyss + Latin -ālis -al entry 1

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Time Traveler for abyssal

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The first known use of abyssal was in 1609

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Cite this Entry

“Abyssal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abyssal. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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