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

Illustration of nadir

Illustration of nadir
  • 1 nadir
  • 2 observer
  • 3 zenith

Did you know?

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 to the English lexicon especially in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and chemistry. The source of nadir is naḍhīr, meaning "opposite"—the opposite, that is, of the zenith, the highest point of the celestial sphere which is positioned vertically above the observer. (The word zenith itself is a modification of another Arabic word that means "the way over one's head.") According to our sources, usage of nadir reached an apex in the 1980s. But worry not for the word’s future: it’s still flying high.

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
Recent Examples on the Web If Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary marks the nadir of rap’s left-leaning activism then the Black August Project was its zenith. Timmhotep Aku, Rolling Stone, 23 Jan. 2024 The film and its soundtrack (originally a six-song EP, later expanded on a reissue with Speedway) represent the twin nadirs of his recording and acting careers. Stephen Deusner, SPIN, 22 Jan. 2024 Bottom line Think about California’s homebuying nadirs during the past third of a century — 1991, 2007 and 2023 — compared with the state’s population. Jonathan Lansner, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Jan. 2024 The rebuilding process hit its nadir in mid-December with back-to-back losses to Sixth Region foes Bullitt East and Holy Cross. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, 11 Jan. 2024 Photo illustration: Jamie Leventhal Prices for metals used in batteries swooned in 2023, as rising supply and weak demand drove lithium to its cheapest level in two years, cobalt to its lowest point in four and nickel to its pandemic-era nadir. Yusuf Khan, WSJ, 28 Dec. 2023 The GOP held its House majority for eight additional years after the Clinton impeachment, until the Iraq War was at its nadir. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, 28 Dec. 2023 And then there was Justice League, which was supposed to be a zenith of Snyder’s directorial career but ended up being the nadir. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Nov. 2023 The network hit a nadir following the 2020 election when voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for $1.6 billion, alleging that Fox knowingly promoted false conspiracy theories about the security of its voting machines. David Hamilton, Fortune, 24 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French, from Arabic naḍhīr opposite

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near nadir

Cite this Entry

“Nadir.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


na·​dir ˈnā-ˌdi(ə)r How to pronounce nadir (audio)
: the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the zenith and directly under the observer
: the lowest point
our hopes reached their nadir

More from Merriam-Webster on nadir

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