al·​ti·​tude ˈal-tə-ˌtüd How to pronounce altitude (audio)
 also  -ˌtyüd
: the vertical elevation of an object above a surface (such as sea level or land) of a planet or natural satellite
: the angular elevation of a celestial object above the horizon
: a perpendicular line segment from a vertex (see vertex sense 2a) of a geometric figure (such as a triangle or a pyramid) to the opposite side or the opposite side extended or from a side or face to a parallel side or face or the side or face extended
: the length of an altitude
: vertical distance or extent
: position at a height
The plane lost altitude.
: an elevated region : eminence
usually used in plural
: a high level (as of quality or feeling)
the altitudes of his anger
altitudinal adjective
altitudinous adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for altitude

height, altitude, elevation mean vertical distance either between the top and bottom of something or between a base and something above it.

height refers to something measured vertically whether high or low.

a wall two meters in height

altitude and elevation apply to height as measured by angular measurement or atmospheric pressure; altitude is preferable when referring to vertical distance above the surface of the earth or above sea level; elevation is used especially in reference to vertical height on land.

fly at an altitude of 10,000 meters
Denver is a city with a high elevation

Examples of altitude in a Sentence

the air temperature at different altitudes Some visitors find it difficult to adjust to the city's high altitude. The plane lost altitude rapidly.
Recent Examples on the Web The lab’s principal investigator and assistant professor of wildlife ecology and management Bradley Cohen pointed out in a reply to a commenter that mallards usually migrate at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 feet at night. Katie Hill, Outdoor Life, 17 Apr. 2024 The Arrow 2 has a range of 56 miles and a maximum altitude of 32 miles, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, which called the Arrow 2 an upgrade of the US Patriot missile defenses Israel once used in this role. Brad Lendon, CNN, 14 Apr. 2024 The high altitude can also affect travelers who aren’t used to it. Eve Chen, USA TODAY, 13 Apr. 2024 But the most important thing is to allow your body to slowly acclimate to the altitude, so be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Chadner Navarro, Travel + Leisure, 9 Apr. 2024 Because Mulanje is in the tropics, the granite has not been subjected to the timeless freeze-thaw cycles that split stone at higher latitudes and altitudes; consequently, there were no cracks, which meant the surface was glass-smooth and could not be ascended without placing bolts for protection. Mark Jenkins, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Apr. 2024 First, as temperatures get warmer the rain/snow line will move to higher altitudes, meaning that a greater proportion of precipitation will fall as rain. Ned Kleiner, Los Angeles Times, 6 Apr. 2024 On the moon, a smaller body where the gravitational pull is much weaker, time moves more quickly and unevenly: Lunar time gains about 58.7 microseconds per day compared to Earth’s time, though even this can vary, depending on the altitude and longitude where lunar clocks may be located. Christian Thorsberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Apr. 2024 Kevin Hart plays a master thief undertaking a daring heist to steal $500 million in gold from a plane, while simultaneously navigating a complex plot involving terrorists and betrayal at high altitudes. Travis Bean, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024

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

Word History


Middle English, "height, angular height of a celestial body above the horizon," borrowed from Latin altitūdin-, altitūdō "height, high position, downward extension, depth," from altus "extending upward, tall, high, extending downward, deep" + -i- -i- + -tūdin-, -tūdō -tude; altus going back to dialectal Indo-European *al-to- (whence also Middle Irish alt, allt "height, cliff," Welsh allt "hill, steep slope, cliff"), of uncertain origin

Note: Traditionally equated with Germanic *alđa- "old," and further to a verbal base *al- "nourish" (< Indo-European *h2el- "nourish, feed;" see old entry 1), on the assumption that the verbal adjective *al-to- "fully grown, nourished" leads to both "old" and "high." However, both the Latin and Celtic etyma refer primarily or exclusively to points situated above the ground, not human or animal growth, so such a connection is questionable.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

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

Dictionary Entries Near altitude

Cite this Entry

“Altitude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


al·​ti·​tude ˈal-tə-ˌt(y)üd How to pronounce altitude (audio)
: the angular height of a celestial object above the horizon
: the vertical distance of an object above a given level (as sea level)
: a perpendicular line from a vertex of a geometric figure (as a triangle) to the opposite side or from one side or face to a parallel side or face
also : the length of such a line
: an elevated region
usually used in plural

More from Merriam-Webster on altitude

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