chthon·​ic ˈthä-nik How to pronounce chthonic (audio)
variants or less commonly chthonian
: of or relating to the underworld : infernal
chthonic deities

Did you know?

Chthonic might seem a lofty and learned word, but it's actually pretty down-to-earth in its origin and meaning. It comes from chthōn, which means "earth" in Greek, and it is associated with things that dwell in or under the earth. It is most commonly used in discussions of mythology, particularly underworld mythology. Hades and Persephone, who reign over the underworld in Greek mythology, might be called "chthonic deities," for example. Chthonic has broader applications, too. It can be used to describe something that resembles a mythological underworld (e.g., "chthonic darkness"), and it is sometimes used to describe earthly or natural things (as opposed to those that are elevated or celestial).

Examples of chthonic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Hades and Persephone are chthonic deities, and the word can also be used more poetically to describe something dark and deathly, with a sinister power. Frances Vinall, Washington Post, 2 June 2023 Along with enduring anxious nights underground during aerial warfare, each is shown in his own way to have drawn on more transcendent themes, namely the chthonic mysteries of the English landscape and the polymorphous eroticism of the nude human body. Richard B. Woodward, WSJ, 3 Dec. 2022 Alex Garland’s latest feature, Men, is a sinister descent into a chthonic nightmare world disguised as a posh English country estate — where ancient forces engage in violent cycles of death and rebirth. Katie Rife, Vulture, 20 May 2022 As his batty 2021 essay made clear, Mr. Putin is possessed by a chthonic belief that Ukraine is part of a holy and indivisible union with Russia. Boris Johnson, WSJ, 14 Nov. 2022 The three assessors explore possessions, chthonic infestations, and other spiritual oddities around New York City. Darren Franich,, 15 June 2022 The West Hall is adorned with chthonic rugs and gilded pedestals. Shelly Tan, Washington Post, 25 Feb. 2021 The poem enacts a sinking, sucking, center-of-the-Earth draw into the chthonic mulch: ancestral cruelty, the unconscious, the self, the roots of words, whatever’s down there. James Parker, The Atlantic, 20 June 2020 Together they are portrayed as chthonic ringmasters, the Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé of contemptuous partisanship and thoroughgoing bad faith. Dwight Garner, New York Times, 23 Mar. 2020 See More

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

Word History


Greek chthon-, chthōn earth — more at humble

First Known Use

1882, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of chthonic was in 1882


Dictionary Entries Near chthonic

Cite this Entry

“Chthonic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

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