lit·​to·​ral | \ˈli-tə-rəl; 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

alongshore, coastal, inshore, nearshore, offshore, shoreside

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Did You Know?


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


littoral warfare includes amphibious landings

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The 2018 figures included the sale of $6.5 billion in littoral combat ships and $1.6 billion in Patriot air and missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia. Courtney Mcbride, WSJ, "U.S. Weapons Transfers, Pushed by Trump, Rise by 13%," 8 Nov. 2018 The House bill provides $146 billion for equipment and upgrades, including $22.7 billion for 12 Navy ships, two Virginia-class submarines and three fast-moving littoral combat ships. Matthew Daly, Fox News, "House backs $675 B spending bill for Pentagon," 28 June 2018 In the past, Baldwin's supporters have pointed to her work to authorize and appropriate spending for the Pentagon and her support for littoral combat ships built in Marinette and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to be made in Oshkosh. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Republican Kevin Nicholson stresses foreign policy in Wisconsin U.S. Senate race," 18 June 2018 As a general rule, a lake or river with an abundance of littoral habitat and a high-quality largemouth bass fishery will have an equally high-quality sunfish fishery. Shannon Tompkins, Houston Chronicle, "June spawn signals peak in Texas sunfish action," 3 June 2018 More than two decades after Rachel Carson published The Edge of the Sea, another marine biologist developed a fascination with Maine’s littoral dwellers. Ben Goldfarb, Smithsonian, "How Seaweed Connects Us All," 31 May 2018 Among the military hardware authorized under the proposal: 77 new F-35 aircraft, two littoral combat ships, two Virginia-class submarines and $85 million worth of Black Hawk helicopters for the Army National Guard. Michael Collins And Nicole Gaudiano, USA TODAY, "House passes defense bill authorizing pay raise for troops, new jets and President Trump's military parade," 24 May 2018 Fleet size wasn’t increased, and at least with regard to the littoral combat ship (LCS), the service seriously compromised on the quality of a frigate-sized warship class. WSJ, "Navy Faces Global Chinese Maritime Threat," 21 May 2018 The USS Little Rock is a Freedom-class littoral combat ship built by Marinette Marine on the shores of the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisconsin. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Navy’s Newest Ship Is Trapped in Canada," 22 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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


Latin litoralis, from litor-, litus seashore


see littoral entry 1

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Statistics for littoral

Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for littoral

The first known use of littoral was circa 1656

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More Definitions for littoral



English Language Learners Definition of littoral

: of, relating to, or having a coast


lit·​to·​ral | \ˈli-tə-rəl; ˌli-tə-ˈral, -ˈräl \

Legal Definition of littoral 

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on littoral

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with littoral

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for littoral

Nglish: Translation of littoral for Spanish Speakers

Comments on littoral

What made you want to look up littoral? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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