aqui·​fer ˈa-kwə-fər How to pronounce aquifer (audio)
: a water-bearing stratum of permeable rock, sand, or gravel
aquiferous adjective

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Aquifer and Agriculture

The vast but relatively shallow Ogallala Aquifer lies beneath the Great Plains, under portions of eight states. Its thickness ranges from a few feet to more than a thousand feet. The Ogallala yields about 30 percent of the nation's groundwater used for irrigation in agriculture, and provides drinking water for most of the people within the area. But for many years more water has been extracted from the Ogallala than has been returned, and the situation today is of great concern.

Examples of aquifer in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web More than 80% of that water was drawn from wells fed by a contaminated coastal aquifer. Daniel Wood, NPR, 1 June 2024 In areas where unchecked pumping from wells severely depletes aquifers, once-thriving wetlands and forests can dry up and die. Ian James, Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2024 Now, the tribes are seeking water from a mix of sources: the Colorado River, the Little Colorado River, aquifers and washes on tribal lands in northeastern Arizona. Susan Montoya Bryan, Fortune, 24 May 2024 Its pipeline would only be a few miles, within state borders, avoid local aquifers and all landowners along the pipeline route signed voluntary agreements so eminent domain wouldn’t be used. Karina Atkins, Chicago Tribune, 15 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for aquifer 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aquifer.' 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 French aquifère "water-bearing," from aqui- (from Latin aqua "water" + -i- -i-) + -fère "bearing" — more at aqua, -fer

Note: The term was introduced into English by the geologist William Harmon Norton (1856-1944) in "Artesian Wells of Iowa," Iowa Geological Survey, vol. 6, Report on Lead, Zinc, Artesian Wells, etc. (Des Moines, 1897), p. 130: "The sand represents the permeable water-bearing layer, the aquifer, to revive a term of Arago's, and its outcrop between the basin rims the area of supply." "Arago" is the French physicist François Arago (1786-1853), whose essay "Sur les puits forés, connus sous le nom de puits artésiens, des fontaines artésiennes, ou de fontaines jaillissants" (Bureau des Longitudes, Annuaire pour l'an 1835 [Paris, 1834], pp. 181-258), is cited earlier in Norton's paper. As noted by Alfred Clebsch ("Analysis and Critique of 'Aquifers, Ground-Water Bodies, and Hydrophers' by C.V. Theis," Selected Contributions to Ground-Water Hydrology by C.V. Theis, and a Review of His Life and Work [U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2415] [Denver, 1994], pp. 39-43), Norton is not strictly speaking "reviving" anything used by Arago, who only uses aquifère as an adjective in the collocations nappe aquifère and couche aquifère (both meaning approximately "water-bearing layer"). Note that in an English translation of Arago's article ("On Springs, Artesian Wells, and Spouting Fountains," Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, vol. 18, no. 36 [April, 1835]) there is no direct equivalent of aquifère, as couches aquifères is rendered by "water bearing beds" and nappe aquifère as simply "water."

First Known Use

1897, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aquifer was in 1897

Dictionary Entries Near aquifer

Cite this Entry

“Aquifer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


aqui·​fer ˈak-wə-fər How to pronounce aquifer (audio)
: a water-bearing layer of rock, sand, or gravel capable of absorbing water
aquiferous adjective

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