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 In the distribution centers, chaos wasn’t an ethereal thing but tangible, reflected in frequent system outages that could shut down facilities for hours and in omnipresent piles of products that sat on the floor, ignored by workers. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Amazon Is a Logistical Disaster," 11 Sep. 2019 Velez’s designs play on the ideas of femininity, challenging with the ideas of what can be beautiful by using materials that are deemed for grunt work and transforming them into ethereal garments. Tahirah Hairston, Teen Vogue, "Teen Vogue Generation Designer Elena Velez Is Challenging The Idea of Femininity," 10 Sep. 2019 Listen to ethereal tunes in an underground cavern Virginia’s Luray Caverns has the most amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Trevor Cox, National Geographic, "15 musical wonders to see—and hear," 31 July 2019 Built on a dually husky and ethereal female vocal and effervescent beat, the song is an obvious hit that's certain to heat up dance floors this summer. Katie Bain, Billboard, "David Guetta & Martin Solveig's 'Thing for You' Is a Fresh Summer Dance Floor Essential: Exclusive," 11 July 2019 The tannins are grippy, but the wine overall feels light and ethereal. Esther Mobley,, "Do we drink the same wine that the Romans drank? Not quite," 13 June 2019 Black Emperor Post-rock veterans Godspeed return to L.A. for a set of dramatic soundscapes inside the fittingly ethereal confines of the Theatre at the Ace Hotel. Andrea Domanick, Los Angeles Times, "Best Live Music in L.A.: Yola Dia festival, Herbie Hancock and more," 14 Aug. 2019 Wim Jansen: Another Feyenoord player, Jansen was just as useful in the centre of midfield, though less ethereal than van Hanegem., "Rinus Michels: The Dutch Master's All-Time Best XI," 14 Aug. 2019 Last year, Mitchell made history and headlines as the first black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue, when his intimately ethereal photos of Beyoncé graced the magazine’s September 2018 issue. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Smithsonian Nabs Beyoncé’s Portrait for Its Permanent Collection," 7 Aug. 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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Statistics for ethereal

Last Updated

23 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for ethereal

The first known use of ethereal was in 1522

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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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