ar·​bo·​re·​al | \är-ˈbȯr-ē-əl \

Definition of arboreal 

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a tree

2 : inhabiting or frequenting trees arboreal monkeys

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Other Words from arboreal

arboreally \ -​ə-​lē \ adverb

Head to the Forest to Define Arboreal

Arbor, the Latin word for "tree," has been a rich source of tree-related words in English, though some are fairly rare. Some arbor descendants are synonyms of arboreal in the "relating to trees" sense: arboraceous, arborary, arborical, and arborous. Some are synonyms meaning "inhabiting trees": arboreous and arboricole. Others mean "resembling a tree": arborescent, arboresque, and arboriform. The verb arborize means "to branch freely," and arborvitae is the name of a shrub that means literally "tree of life." There's also arboretum and arboriculture. And we can't forget Arbor Day, which since 1872 has named a day set aside by various states (and the national government ) for planting trees. But watch out-the word arbor, in the sense of a "bower," is from Anglo-French herbe.

Examples of arboreal in a Sentence

Primate keepers Colleen Reed and Scott Jackson wove the hose into hammocks, which are now being used by 54-year-old orangutan Inji and gibbons Phyllis and Duffy. They are relatively indestructible, mimic the arboreal nests used by orangutans, and provide a resting area for the gibbons as they swing among the treetops. —Portland (Ore.) Tribune, Firefighters' gift helps aging zoo apes, by Jim Redden, August 25, 2014 It's an amazing sight, but not the most amazing of all. That comes near the end of the trail's loop, where we emerge into open space, 70 acres of green grassland, a savanna of widely spaced, mature trees, many reaching 60 feet tall, gnarled and weathered, separated as if each had staked out its own territory: an arboreal Gothic cathedral indeed. —Sunset [NEXIS], April 2014, HEADLINE: Oak Land, BYLINE: Marken, Bill A chachalaca is a galliforme [sic] that moves around at a high level above the ground. Similar birds, such s the grouse or turkey, stick mostly to the ground. Marion believes the bird’s arboreal lifestyle is an adaptation to its environment, which is usually near water, Chachalacas took to trees to survive floods, he thinks. —“In Search of Chachalacs” P. 82, Chuck Wanager, BIRD WATCHER’S DIGEST Vol. 17 No. 2, November/December 1994 In the early ’60s, Turner was a photorealist, painting precise and accurate recreations of life that could easily be mistaken for photographs. He later turned to a more whimsical style, and then to a series of tree paintings. By 1983, Turner’s trees had turned flesh-colored, with limbs intertwining and branches beginning to resemble arms. The metamorphosis of his subjects from arboreal to human was eventually completed. And, as Turner recalls ruefully, the audience that had adored his treescapes began asking, “What happened to this guy we thought we knew?” —“Portrait of an Artist” P. 40, Peter Gambaccini, RUNNER’S WORLD Vol. 29 No. 2, February 1994
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Recent Examples on the Web

Cantwell and her colleagues, along with other city agencies and nonprofits, add more than 10,000 trees annually to the District’s arboreal family. Gabriel Popkin, Washington Post, "D.C. says its tree canopy is growing. Federal researchers disagree.," 10 June 2018 Between May and August, Freeze might catch fewer than 10 northerns at his arboreal outpost just off Interstate 95. Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post, "A mysterious disease is killing millions of bats. These scientists are trying to save them.," 12 July 2018 The paper looked at about a dozen songbird species, including the American robin, red-faced warbler, and other arboreal species, as well as ground-dwelling birds like the house wren and white-breasted nuthatch. National Geographic, "Birds That Leave Nest Too Late Can Endanger Their Families," 25 June 2018 When enjoying its evolved arboreal lifestyle, however, the sloth is a genius. Steve Mirsky, Scientific American, "A Look at the Inner Lives of 13 Species of Animals You Think You Know," 13 July 2018 Using statistical analysis of the fossil record, combined with data on the forests, the researchers concluded that non-arboreal birds—those who didn’t live in trees—were much more likely to survive. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "How the Ancestors of Birds Survived the Dino-Killing Asteroid," 24 May 2018 What is probably Cajal’s most famous drawing stands out not only for its stark arboreal beauty but also for encapsulating his neuron doctrine. Sharon Begley, STAT, "In ‘Beautiful Brain,’ the secrets of neurons emerge in Nobel-winning scientist’s ink and pencil drawings," 3 May 2018 For an arboreal intro, walk the 0.6-mile Redwood Loop Trail. Peter Fish, San Francisco Chronicle, "The 5 best spots around Santa Cruz to see redwoods," 12 Apr. 2018 Such assessments are of interest to us, and researchers around the globe, with current investigations focused on wildlife such as arboreal mammals and cetaceans. Smithsonian, "When It Comes to Counting Wildlife, Drones Are More Accurate Than People," 27 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'arboreal.' 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 arboreal

circa 1667, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for arboreal

Latin arboreus of a tree, from arbor

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Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for arboreal

The first known use of arboreal was circa 1667

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More Definitions for arboreal



English Language Learners Definition of arboreal

: of or relating to trees

: living in or often found in trees


ar·​bo·​re·​al | \är-ˈbȯr-ē-əl \

Kids Definition of arboreal

1 : living in or often found in trees Koalas are arboreal animals.

2 : of or relating to a tree the forest's arboreal beauty

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obstinately defiant of authority

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