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lit·​to·​ral ˈli-tə-rəl How to pronounce littoral (audio)
: of, relating to, or situated or growing on or near a shore especially of the sea
littoral waters


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

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
The test was part of an effort to prove the ability of littoral combat ships to defend themselves and to attack enemy targets. Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Oct. 2023 The roughly $500 million Augusta was designed to operate at high speeds in near-shore, or littoral waters, and do such things as find sea mines and track submarines. Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Sep. 2023 Some of it migrates toward other beaches in part of a complex phenomenon known as littoral drift. Jill Cowan,, 2 Sep. 2023 The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS 6) transits the South China Sea during routine operations. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 18 Aug. 2023 Accessed via a 30-minute helicopter trip from Townsville, or a short hop from your superyacht, the residence is nestled against unspoiled littoral rainforest at the rear. Alex Greggery, Robb Report, 6 July 2023 In addition to these minuscule but strategic bits of land, the sea’s littoral countries also vie for sovereignty and economic rights over contested waters. Foreign Affairs, 18 Apr. 2023 The littoral Marines may serve as spotters who pass along the position of enemy forces to American warplanes, ships or submarines to attack. John Ismay, New York Times, 5 Mar. 2023 The littoral combat ship program was announced after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. David Sharp, ajc, 7 Apr. 2022
The massive polities of the Eurasian littoral had enough surplus worthy of stealing on the part of its rulers. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 24 June 2013 The historical lands of the Swahili are on east Africa’s Indian Ocean littoral. John M. Mugane, Quartz, 5 Apr. 2022 Anyone who went to the east African littoral could choose to become Swahili, and many did. John M. Mugane, Quartz, 5 Apr. 2022 Now, in a distracted world, China proudly touts the efficiency of its surveillance state while continuing to build up its military and pursue its ambitious efforts to gain a strategic advantage along the Asian littoral. Lewis Libby, National Review, 6 May 2021 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, 2 Dec. 2019 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., 18 May 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'littoral.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Noun

Latin litoralis, from litor-, litus seashore

First Known Use


circa 1656, in the meaning defined above


1828, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of littoral was circa 1656


Dictionary Entries Near littoral

Cite this Entry

“Littoral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
lit·​to·​ral ˈlit-ə-rəl How to pronounce littoral (audio)
: of, relating to, or situated or growing on or near a shore (as of the sea)


2 of 2 noun
: a coastal region

Legal Definition


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

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