ethereal

adjective
ethe·​re·​al | \ i-ˈthir-ē-əl How to pronounce ethereal (audio) \

Essential Meaning of ethereal

formal
1 : in heaven ethereal heights
2 : resembling heaven : seeming to belong to another world The windows give the church an ethereal glow. ethereal music
3 : very delicate an ethereal ballet dancer ethereal elegance His writing is filled with ethereal [=airy] abstractions.

Full Definition of ethereal

1a : of or relating to the regions beyond the earth
2a : lacking material substance : immaterial, intangible
b : marked by unusual delicacy or refinement this smallest, most ethereal, and daintiest of birds— William Beebe
c : suggesting the heavens or heaven
3 : relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical ether

Other Words from ethereal

ethereality \ i-​ˌthir-​ē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce ethereal (audio) \ noun
etherealization \ i-​ˌthir-​ē-​ə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce ethereal (audio) \ noun
etherealize \ i-​ˈthir-​ē-​ə-​ˌlīz How to pronounce ethereal (audio) \ transitive verb
ethereally \ i-​ˈthir-​ē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce ethereal (audio) \ adverb
etherealness noun

Did you know?

If you're burning to know the history of ethereal, you're in the right spirit to fully understand that word's etymology. The ancient Greeks believed that the Earth was composed of earth, air, fire, and water, but that the heavens and its denizens were made of a purer, less tangible substance known as either ether or quintessence. Ether was often described as an invisible light or fire, and its name derives from the Greek aithein, a verb meaning "to ignite" or "to blaze." When ethereal, the adjectival kin of ether, debuted in English in the 1500s, it referred to regions beyond the Earth or anything that seemed to originate from there.

Examples of ethereal in a Sentence

The windows give the church an ethereal glow. that ethereal attribute that every performer should have—charisma
Recent Examples on the Web Over the millennia, the flute has come to be seen as delicate, decorous, ethereal. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 27 Dec. 2021 Or, for a more ethereal effect, try eyelighting all around the eye, blending various icy shades together to create a kaleidoscope of color and light. Lottie Winter, Glamour, 23 Sep. 2021 Like the ethereal Hatsune Miku, Avedon is visually represented by an avatar. Kate Knibbs, Wired, 16 Dec. 2021 As fashionable haunts in New York go, Omen was an unlikely candidate, and Mr. Shinagawa, a serene, silver-haired man raised in Kyoto who wore Comme des Garçons suits, was its ethereal anti-restaurateur. Alex Vadukul, New York Times, 12 Dec. 2021 Singer-songwriter Lillie West is an ethereal goddess floating on a collection of songs with her third project as Lala Lala. BostonGlobe.com, 10 Dec. 2021 For centuries scientists puzzled as to how anything could be alive, imagining there must be some kind of ethereal life force that animates matter. Julian Baggini, WSJ, 9 Dec. 2021 Wearing an ethereal silver eyeshadow and a glimmering lip color, Kourtney, 41, strikes a fun pose with her hands spread out in front of her face for the first snapshot. Charmaine Patterson, PEOPLE.com, 9 Dec. 2021 In experiments soon thereafter, Marr added a third note for a leafy, ethereal aspect. Scott Sayare, Harper's Magazine, 23 Nov. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ethereal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of ethereal

1522, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Learn More About ethereal

Time Traveler for ethereal

Time Traveler

The first known use of ethereal was in 1522

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About ethereal

Dictionary Entries Near ethereal

ether drift

ethereal

ethereal blue

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ethereal

Last Updated

4 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ethereal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethereal. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for ethereal

ethereal

adjective
ethe·​re·​al | \ i-ˈthir-ē-əl How to pronounce ethereal (audio) \

Kids Definition of ethereal

1 : suggesting heaven or the heavens ethereal music
2 : very delicate : airy

ethereal

adjective
ethe·​re·​al | \ i-ˈthir-ē-əl How to pronounce ethereal (audio) \

Medical Definition of ethereal

: relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical ether

More from Merriam-Webster on ethereal

Nglish: Translation of ethereal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ethereal for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!