na·​dir | \ ˈnā-ˌdir How to pronounce nadir (audio) , 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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web The market hit its nadir on March 23, with the S&P closing just above 2,237 and the Dow Jones a fraction below 18,592. NBC News, "2020: A dismal economic year, unless you were on Wall Street," 31 Dec. 2020 In the case of the financial crisis, U.S. stocks hit their nadir March 9, 2009. Akane Otani, WSJ, "Lessons From a Crazy Year in Financial Markets," 31 Dec. 2020 Having a Hyundai Ioniq stolen was undoubtedly the nadir, but it was recovered undamaged, and even highlighted an upside to the connected car in the process. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "The best cars, SUVs, and crossovers we drove in 2020," 27 Dec. 2020 On Thursday officials announced that the percentage of available intensive care beds in San Diego and 10 other southern California counties had reached its nadir: 0%. Greg Moran, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Judge clarifies ruling on COVID-19 restrictions applies to restaurants in county; state plans appeal," 17 Dec. 2020 In the past seven months, the nadir of air travel in the U.S. came on April 14, when 87,534 passengers moved through airport security — down from more than 2.2 million on the same day in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Gregory Thomas,, "Airlines aren’t price gouging for holiday travel — yet," 17 Oct. 2020 Trump was responsible for some moments that represent a nadir in modern presidential debate history, starting with his refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacy, a growing domestic threat. Editorial Board Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Blame Trump for debate chaos and disinformation," 30 Sep. 2020 The incident marked a nadir in ties stemming from a series of incident that began in 2008 when North Korea fatally shot a 53-year-old South Korean woman vacationer who wandered close to a military facility at a resort at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang. Jeong-ho Lee,, "Kim Jong Un Makes Rare Apology Over Killing of South Korean," 25 Sep. 2020 The nadir, of course, was that unmitigated disaster in 2014. Dan Wiederer,, "Cover your eyes: It can often be a humiliating experience when the Chicago Bears face the Green Bay Packers in prime time," 27 Nov. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for nadir

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nadir.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for nadir


How to pronounce nadir (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nadir

formal : the worst or lowest point of something

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

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