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

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

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Other Words from ethereal

ethereality \ i-​ˌthir-​ē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce ethereality (audio) \ noun
etherealization \ i-​ˌthir-​ē-​ə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce etherealization (audio) \ noun
etherealize \ i-​ˈthir-​ē-​ə-​ˌlīz How to pronounce etherealize (audio) \ transitive verb
ethereally \ i-​ˈthir-​ē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce ethereally (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 adjective kin of "ether," debuted in English in the 1500s, it referred specifically to regions beyond the Earth, but it gradually came to refer to anything heavenly or airy.

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 Dawson also reflects on the structure of the song, which marks a shift in her sound toward the more ethereal. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Desirée Dawson Is Letting Her Lover Know She's 'All In' on Haunting New Single," 22 Nov. 2019 Even the purest, most ethereal work—an abstraction by Geneviève Asse, a string quartet by Linda Catlin Smith—can leave us in a state of vulnerable awareness. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Sorrowful Songs at the White Light Festival," 11 Nov. 2019 In the midst of learning all these gems, guests also munched on delicious, colorful acai bowls and yummy breakfast burritos while the brunch tables were adorned with the most ethereal floral arrangements, setting the tone for the rest of the day. Teen Vogue, "Every Single Self-Care Tip We Learned From Our Brunch With PINK," 6 Nov. 2019 While many stories are as ethereal as their spirited inhabitants, others are linked to specific people and occasions. Scott Craven, azcentral, "Arizona's most notable ghosts, from a jilted lover to a rampaging camel," 24 Oct. 2019 Tunes take on an ethereal quality as the sound echoes around the large cavern. Trevor Cox, National Geographic, "15 musical wonders to see—and hear," 31 July 2019 The soft colors and cel-shading have an ethereal quality and those visuals are fitting for a game about death. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, "Preview: ‘Oninaki’ tries to breathe new life into action RPG," 22 July 2019 In this metaphor, which feels ethereal and delicate in the book, death by suffocation—the same death promised by the gas—suggests a kind of smothering self-absorption. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "“The Divers’ Game,” Jesse Ball’s Unnerving Parable of a Country That Feigns Innocence," 23 Sep. 2019 Never Fully Dressed puff-sleeve midi dress in red floral print ($141; There's an ethereal, nymphlike quality going on here. Staff, CNN Underscored, "Celebrate in style with these 21 holiday party dresses," 6 Dec. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of ethereal

1522, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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The first known use of ethereal was in 1522

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ethereal.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for ethereal


How to pronounce ethereal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ethereal

: in heaven
: resembling heaven : seeming to belong to another world
: very delicate


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


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

Medical Definition of ethereal

: relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical ether

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a feeling of well-being or elation

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