di·​lu·​vi·​al də-ˈlü-vē-əl How to pronounce diluvial (audio)
variants or diluvian
: of, relating to, or brought about by a flood

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Late Latin diluvialis means "flood." It’s from Latin diluere ("to wash away") and ultimately from "lavere" ("to wash"). English "diluvial" and its variant "diluvian" initially referred to the Biblical Flood. Geologists, archaeologists, fossilists, and the like used the words, beginning back in the mid-1600s, to mark a distinct geological turning point associated with the Flood. They also used "antediluvian" and "postdiluvian" to describe the periods before and after the Flood. It wasn’t until the 1800s that people started using "diluvial" for floods and flooding in general. American educator and essayist Caroline M. Kirkland, one early user of this sense, wrote, "Much of our soil is said to be diluvial - the wash of the great ocean lakes as they overflowed towards the south," in her essay Forest Life in 1850.

Examples of diluvial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Seas will be higher, rain more diluvial and storms fiercer. The Economist, 19 Sep. 2019

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

Word History


Late Latin diluvialis, from Latin diluvium deluge — more at deluge

First Known Use

circa 1656, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of diluvial was circa 1656


Dictionary Entries Near diluvial

Cite this Entry

“Diluvial.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diluvial. Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

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