ethe·​re·​al | \i-ˈthir-ē-əl \

Definition of ethereal 

1a : of or relating to the regions beyond the earth

b : celestial, heavenly

c : unworldly, spiritual

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 \ noun
etherealization \i-​ˌthir-​ē-​ə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən \ noun
etherealize \i-​ˈthir-​ē-​ə-​ˌlīz \ transitive verb
ethereally \i-​ˈthir-​ē-​ə-​lē \ 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

In escapist fashion, the wet-looking shadows each moved beyond the lid, blues clouding ethereal toward the brow, while warmer shades skewed finger-painted, swiped into imperfect cat-eyes and rotund delineations. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "This Painterly Pastel Eyeshadow Is the Answer to a Permanently Sunny State of Mind," 17 Sep. 2018 LaChanze is incapable of musical insincerity, however insincere the script may be, and delivers the songs thrillingly, if not in the ethereal, seemingly tossed-off Summer manner. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: Hot Stuff Turns Cold in ‘Summer: The Donna Summer Musical’," 23 Apr. 2018 When first opened, dozens of red dots form the ethereal image of a heart on the screen. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Apple Watch Series 4 review: A bigger, better watchOS experience," 26 Sep. 2018 The Swift 5’s ethereal lightness is typically what’s going to attract a Swift 5 buyer, though. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Acer's Swift 5 aims to be the lightest laptop to include Intel's new Whiskey Lake chips," 29 Aug. 2018 Turrell, who is perhaps best known for creating ethereal installations that employ transitory beams of light, is focusing on slightly more concrete materials in this, his seventh show at the gallery. Carolina A. Miranda,, "Datebook: A closeup of dust, artistry of the Black Panther Party and celebrating the male physique," 5 July 2018 The Dutch duo, who have been responsible for some avant-garde creations over the years, recreated pieces from past collections but this time all were in ethereal white. Rhonda Richford, The Hollywood Reporter, "Paris Couture Week: Elie Saab Says 'Ole,' Viktor & Rolf Say 'Remember When?'," 5 July 2018 That was the ethereal, beguiling question bubbling over the synth swell of Zooropa’s opening and title track. Jonathan Bradley, Billboard, "Dream Up the World You're Gonna Live In: How U2's 'Zooropa' Got the Future Wrong, 25 Years Later," 5 July 2018 Deciding on a wedding day beauty look can be an overwhelming task for any bride-to-be—with tradition dictating that hair must appear ethereal, effortless and perhaps most importantly, timeless. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Cindy Crawford's Throwback Wedding Picture Proves Beach Waves Are a Timeless Win," 30 May 2018

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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Statistics for ethereal

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for ethereal

The first known use of ethereal was in 1522

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More Definitions for ethereal



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 \

Kids Definition of ethereal

1 : suggesting heaven or the heavens ethereal music

2 : very delicate : airy


ethe·​re·​al | \i-ˈthir-ē-əl \

Medical Definition of ethereal 

: relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical ether

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More from Merriam-Webster on ethereal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ethereal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ethereal

Spanish Central: Translation of ethereal

Nglish: Translation of ethereal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ethereal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ethereal

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to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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