brack·​ish ˈbra-kish How to pronounce brackish (audio)
: somewhat salty
brackish water
: not appealing to the taste
brackish tea
: repulsive
a brackish personality
brackishness noun

Did you know?

When the word brackish first appeared in English in the 1500s, it simply meant "salty," as did its Dutch parent brak. (English speakers also adopted the synonymous brack from the same source but it gets very little use.) Then, as now, brackish was used to describe water that was a mixture of saltwater and freshwater, such as one encounters where a river meets the sea. Since that time, however, brackish has developed the additional meanings of "unpalatable" and "repulsive," presumably because of the oozy, mucky, and sometimes stinky (or stinkyish, if you prefer)—not just salty—qualities of coastal estuaries and swamps.

Example Sentences

the office coffee is often some brackish brew that's been sitting around for a couple of hours the river becomes brackish as we approach the tidemark
Recent Examples on the Web One of the state’s top attractions are its traditional wooden houseboats which ply the brackish lagoons and canals that crisscross much of the tropical coastline. Manveena Suri, CNN, 8 May 2023 The study, published in Scientific Reports on March 23, examined how climate change may affect the spread of Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that usually lives in warm, brackish seawater, farther north up the East Coast. Stephen Sorace, Fox News, 18 Apr. 2023 The twisting, tropical plants aren’t well suited to the brackish soil, a situation exacerbated by recent storms. Joshua Emerson Smith, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Apr. 2023 Increasing inundation of the soil surrounding the basin exposes the trees to salt water from the brackish Potomac River. Scott Dance, Washington Post, 18 Mar. 2023 Red tide is a natural phenomenon caused by an overgrowth or accumulation of microscopic algae in marine or brackish water, according to the FWC. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 8 Mar. 2023 The property is located on an island, and the Pincus family, who has used the getaway as their vacation home for several decades, had simply turned to the brackish inlets of the surrounding Peconic Bay for their bathing, launching paddleboards between the marshy grasses. Chloe Schama, Vogue, 2 Mar. 2023 On the Texas Coast, cattle were allowed to roam on the coastal marshes, where the brackish grass provided minerals that allowed the cattle to grow and fatten up. Brittanie Shey, Chron, 27 Feb. 2023 Those opposed to the project argue that building a new reservoir is simply an outdated approach, suggesting instead to use modern solutions like filtering readily available water such as brackish water or wastewater and better utilizing existing reservoirs such as Lake Toledo Bend or Lake Texoma. Dallas News, 12 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Dutch brac salty; akin to Middle Low German brac salty

First Known Use

circa 1552, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of brackish was circa 1552


Dictionary Entries Near brackish

Cite this Entry

“Brackish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


brack·​ish ˈbrak-ish How to pronounce brackish (audio)
: somewhat salty
brackish water

More from Merriam-Webster on brackish

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