na·​dir | \ˈnā-ˌdir, ˈnā-dər\

Definition of nadir 

1 : the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the zenith and vertically downward from the observer

2 : the lowest point

Illustration of nadir

Illustration of nadir

nadir 1: 1 nadir, 2 observer, 3 zenith

Keep scrolling for more

Nadir Has Arabic Roots

Nadir is part of the galaxy of scientific words that have come to us from Arabic, a language that has made important contributions in the vocabulary of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and chemistry. Nadir derives from an Arabic word meaning "opposite"—the opposite, that is, of the zenith, or the highest point of the celestial sphere, the one vertically above the observer. (The word zenith itself is a modification of another Arabic word that means "the way over one's head.") The English poet John Donne is first on record as having used nadir in the figurative sense of "lowest point" in a sermon he wrote in 1627.

Examples of nadir in a Sentence

Nantucket reached its nadir in the post-Civil War period. The whaling industry had become moribund, many New Englanders had been lured to California by the discovery of gold, and the island population dropped from ten thousand in 1830 to scarcely more than three thousand in 1880. — David H. Wood, Antiques, August 1995 But then, at the very nadir of that dark abandoned moment, that moment of despair and sickness unto death, … — T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Road to Wellville, 1993 My nadir was the time I presented an oral book report on "Les Misérables," having read only the Classic Comics version … — Stephen Jay Gould, New York Times Book Review, 12 Oct. 1986 The relationship between the two countries reached a nadir in the 1920s. the discussion really reached its nadir when people resorted to name-calling
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Thủy was raised by civil-servant parents in the Red River village of An Dương, at the nadir of the bao cấp era. Peter Jon Lindberg, Condé Nast Traveler, "Hanoi, Time and Again," 20 Nov. 2018 The company's precipitous decline in the streaming age has now reached its near-nadir: As of August, there will be only one operating Blockbuster store in the entire country. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "There's Only One Blockbuster Left in the United States," 13 July 2018 The nadir of misguided remedies was probably reached in the 10th century a.d. David Noonan, Scientific American, "New Nerve Drugs May Finally Prevent Migraine Headaches," 1 Dec. 2015 During the system’s nadir in the 1980s, Richard Ravitch, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chairman, met regularly with then-mayor Edward I. Koch. New York Times, "Nearly 6 Months on the Job, the Subway Chief Finally Meets the Mayor," 10 July 2018 This assumption approached a comical nadir a few months earlier when Gidley walked to the back of Air Force One to take questions from reporters who were traveling with Trump to and from an event in Utah. Mark Leibovich, New York Times, "The Risky Business of Speaking for President Trump," 23 May 2018 Turkey also gives vocal support to the Palestinians, while relations are at a nadir with Israel. Washington Post, "Mideast conflicts connected by vying powerbrokers," 17 May 2018 Refinery29 spoke with the cast at BAM CinemaFest about their nadirs of middle school. Rebecca Farley,, "The Stars Of Eighth Grade Relive Their Middle School Horror Stories," 13 July 2018 Talk of a blue wave this year that would give Democrats control of Congress has been thrown into question by a strong economy as well as a small, but steady increase in Trump’s approval since its nadir last year. John Fritze, USA TODAY, "Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un may give him some political benefits for midterms," 11 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nadir.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of nadir

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nadir

Middle English, from Middle French, from Arabic naḍhīr opposite

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about nadir

Listen to Our Podcast about nadir

Dictionary Entries near nadir








Statistics for nadir

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for nadir

The first known use of nadir was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nadir



English Language Learners Definition of nadir

: the worst or lowest point of something

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on nadir

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nadir

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nadir

Spanish Central: Translation of nadir

Nglish: Translation of nadir for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about nadir

Comments on nadir

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


amusing and light sparring with words

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!