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 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 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 Apollo composed the ethereal track with the help of fellow musician Albert Hammond Jr. (of The Strokes fame) to create a breathtaking ode to fleeting millenial romance. Natalie Maher, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Best Songs of 2020," 29 Dec. 2020 Today is the Ingenue Ball, which is more ethereal and has lots of blossoms and sheers and statues. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "Bridgerton on Netflix: All the Behind-the-Scenes Moments You Need to See," 26 Dec. 2020 Pixar also created digital linework to help define the ethereal characters — a first for the studio. Washington Post, "Pixar’s ‘Soul’ raises a big question for our surreal year: ‘What am I doing with my time on earth?’," 25 Dec. 2020 The filmmakers landed on a more ethereal setting where souls seek out their passions amid bursts of color. John Jurgensen, WSJ, "How Pixar Brings ‘Soul’ and Existential Ideas to Life," 23 Dec. 2020 This year, Santa Claus, who’s likely to be a part of the vulnerable, at-risk population for COVID-19, is as likely as not to be virtual — an ethereal presence who works from the North Pole and beams into your living room over a live stream. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: Pandemic deja vu — governor considers stay-at-home order," 1 Dec. 2020 The detection of an ethereal glow on Europa could help identify the salts producing it, which in turn could tell scientists something about the watery world below. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, "Jupiter Might Have a Glow-in-the-Dark Moon," 10 Nov. 2020 Despite the logistical challenges, the collection’s mix of ethereal lightness and expressive illustration is beautiful. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Fe Noel and Cristina Martinez’s Artsy Collaboration is the Best of Both Worlds," 10 Dec. 2020 There is a section of Hillcrest Hospital, part of the Cleveland Clinic System, that has an extraordinary collection of angels -- large and small, gold and silver, rugged and ethereal. Maria Shine Stewart, cleveland, "Snow angels help us plow through December: Sun Messages," 7 Dec. 2020

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 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ethereal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

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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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