lit·​to·​ral | \ ˈli-tə-rəl How to pronounce littoral (audio) ; ˌli-tə-ˈral, -ˈräl \

Definition of littoral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, or situated or growing on or near a shore especially of the sea littoral waters



Definition of littoral (Entry 2 of 2)

: a coastal region especially : the shore zone between high tide and low tide points

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Synonyms for littoral

Synonyms: Adjective

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You're most likely to encounter littoral in contexts relating to the military and marine sciences. A littoral combat ship is a fast and easily maneuverable combat ship built for use in coastal waters. And in marine ecology, the littoral zone is a coastal zone characterized by abundant dissolved oxygen, sunlight, nutrients, and generally high wave energies and water motion. Littoral can also be found as a noun referring to a coastal region or, more technically, to the shore zone between the high tide and low tide points. The adjective is the older of the two, dating from the mid-17th century; the noun dates from the early 19th century. The word comes to English from Latin litoralis, itself from litor- or litus, meaning "seashore."

Examples of littoral in a Sentence

Adjective littoral warfare includes amphibious landings
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Should the Navy be planning to build 500 ships, especially after the challenges associated with the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers and littoral combat ships? Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, "Top US commander warns of the rebirth of ISIS, Russian and Chinese adventurism, Taliban violence, and the ticking time bomb of refugee and prison camps," 9 Feb. 2021 Paul is the 21st littoral (nearshore) combat ship in the Navy's fleet. Brooks Johnson, Star Tribune, "USS Minneapolis-St. Paul commissioning in Duluth on hold," 1 Feb. 2021 Fringing the Atlantic Ocean, this wild littoral moves inland from interlocking inlets and islands to a maze of lakes, peat bogs, and stark mountains. Colin Thubron, The New York Review of Books, "Cartographers of Stone and Air," 17 Nov. 2020 The Chinese Navy possesses some 335 surface ships, though many are littoral, compared to America’s 295. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "Esper casts wide net in Pacific effort to build partners, contain China," 27 Aug. 2020 Recent attacks have targeted native forces and U.N. peacekeepers and have reached Africa's littoral states. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "Despite uncertain future, U.S. Africa Command boosts Sahel counterterrorism force," 20 Aug. 2020 Today, the name Indianapolis lives on in the littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis (LCS-17). Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "75 Years After Sinking, USS Indianapolis Crew Gets Congressional Gold Medal," 3 Aug. 2020 For decades, China and other littoral countries, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, have competed and clashed over its atolls, shoals, reefs and sandbars. The Economist, "Identify yourself China’s next move in the South China Sea," 18 June 2020 The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords on Tuesday sailed close to a drillship named West Capella, contracted by Malaysia’s national oil company, after two other U.S. naval vessels patrolled there last week. Niharika Mandhana, WSJ, "U.S. Warships Support Malaysia Against China Pressure in South China Sea," 13 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Thanksgiving along the Potomac littoral seemed a little emptier this year without Rob Odle, who died on October 2 after a tough fight with cancer. George Weigel, National Review, "Remembering Rob Odle," 2 Dec. 2019 Like many Freedom-class littoral combat ships, Billings visited several cities and towns in the Great Lakes region before departing for the Atlantic via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "One of the Navy's New Warships Just Crashed in Canada," 26 June 2019 The Freedom-class littoral combat ships use two Colt Pielstick engines for everyday propulsion, but also run a pair of Rolls-Royce MT 30 gas turbines for high speed sprinting. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Two Years After Breakdown, This Littoral Combat Ship is Back in the Fleet," 18 Dec. 2018 The USS Jackson, a littoral, or shallow-water, combat ship, traveled from Astoria to Portland on Thursday, arriving in downtown Portland for Fleet Week. Beth Nakamura,, "Combat ship USS Jackson arrives in Portland for Fleet Week," 8 June 2017 Specifically, at a time when military strategists assessed that the greatest threats to Chinese security were coming from the sea off China’s littorals, the PLA was still dominated institutionally and doctrinally by the ground forces., "Xi Revamping China's Military to Win Wars, Finkelstein Says: Q&A," 18 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'littoral.' 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 littoral


circa 1656, in the meaning defined above


1828, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for littoral

Adjective and Noun

Latin litoralis, from litor-, litus seashore

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Time Traveler for littoral

Time Traveler

The first known use of littoral was circa 1656

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Statistics for littoral

Last Updated

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Littoral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for littoral



English Language Learners Definition of littoral

technical : of, relating to, or having a coast


lit·​to·​ral | \ ˈli-tə-rəl; ˌli-tə-ˈral, -ˈräl How to pronounce littoral (audio) \

Legal Definition of littoral

: of, relating to, or being property abutting an ocean, sea, lake, or pond — compare riparian

More from Merriam-Webster on littoral

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Nglish: Translation of littoral for Spanish Speakers

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