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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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

Adjective littoral warfare includes amphibious landings
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Its fleet consists of aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, cruisers, littoral combat ships, destroyers and submarines. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "It's the US Navy's birthday. Here are five things to know about military force," 13 Oct. 2019 Nor has China prevented foreign oil companies from working with other littoral states. The Economist, "China is resorting to new forms of bullying in the South China Sea," 3 Oct. 2019 Developed by Norway's Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace for the Norwegian military, it was successfully tested off the littoral combat ship USS Coronado in 2014. Brad Lendon, CNN, "US Navy adds powerful new missile in Pacific," 11 Sep. 2019 Six ships — the destroyers USS Lassen, USS Paul Ignatius, USS Farragut; the littoral combat ships USS Billings and USS Milwaukee, and the patrol craft USS Shamal — have been directed to head out to sea to ride out the storm. Fox News, "Florida military bases move warships, aircraft ahead of Hurricane Dorian," 31 Aug. 2019 And from October a Romanian will serve as NATO’s deputy secretary-general—the first official from a Black Sea littoral state to do so in nearly five decades. The Economist, "America and its allies are helping Ukraine to get its sea legs back," 9 Aug. 2019 At the weekend, the US Navy announced the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery was making a port call in Davao, Philippines. Brad Lendon, CNN, "China tests anti-ship missile in South China Sea, Pentagon says," 3 July 2019 In South-East Asia, where the littoral states are richer and better run, governments have curbed piracy by working together and sharing intelligence. The Economist, "West Africa has become the world’s piracy hotspot," 3 July 2019 The USS Billings, a brand-new littoral combat ship, now has a brand-new ding in her hull. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "One of the Navy's New Warships Just Crashed in Canada," 26 June 2019 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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Cite this Entry

“Littoral.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for littoral


How to pronounce littoral (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on littoral

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for littoral

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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