em·​py·​re·​al | \ ˌem-ˌpī-ˈrē-əl How to pronounce empyreal (audio) , -pə-; em-ˈpir-ē-əl How to pronounce empyreal (audio) , -ˈpī-rē- \

Definition of empyreal

1 : of or relating to the empyrean : celestial
2 : sublime

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Empyreal can be traced back to the Greek word for "fiery," empyros, which was formed from the prefix em- ("in," "within," or "inside") and -pyros, from pyr, the Greek word for "fire." When empyreal entered the English language—via the Late Latin empyreus or empyrius—in the 15th century, it specifically referred to things related to the empyrean, the highest heaven or outermost heavenly sphere of ancient and medieval cosmology, which was often thought to contain or be composed of the element of fire. In the works of Christian writers—such as Dante's Divine Comedy and John Milton's Paradise Lost—this outermost heavenly sphere was associated with the Christian paradise. Empyreal is now also used more broadly in the senses of "celestial" and "sublime."

Examples of empyreal in a Sentence

a painting depicting the Deity as seated on an empyreal throne surrounded by saints and angels

First Known Use of empyreal

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for empyreal

Late Latin empyrius, empyreus, from Late Greek empyrios, from Greek em- en- entry 2 + pyr fire

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Cite this Entry

“Empyreal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empyreal. Accessed 25 Jun. 2022.

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