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

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 But her rivals, particularly former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, see her emphasis on domestic policy as a vulnerability amid global security concerns and when the perception of the United States abroad is at a nadir. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Warren’s defense spending record in firing line after Soleimani strike," 7 Jan. 2020 This could have been a new nadir for a team growing accustomed to letdowns. Connor Letourneau,, "Warriors end 5-game skid with win over Pelicans," 20 Dec. 2019 Pullman was the nadir: Montez missing high on the run, Montez missing high when not on the run, Montez running for his life, punt. Sean Keeler, The Denver Post, "Analysis: CU Buffs QB Steven Montez finds legacy — and CU’s season — at stake vs. USC Trojans," 25 Oct. 2019 Still, that represented a slight increase in the participation rates from their nadir in 2018. oregonlive, "Oregon schools deliver worst test scores in 5 years," 19 Sep. 2019 If that moment represented a kind of apogee for Suu Kyi as a global icon, this week marked a nadir. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "A bad week for the Nobel Prize," 13 Dec. 2019 The Garland Zellweger plays is far from the Garland of her prime, but rather at a kind of nadir near the end, less than a year before her 1969 death at age 47 at the hands of the barbiturates she was addicted to. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Don’t call ‘Judy’ Renee Zellweger’s ‘comeback.’ It’s just one of her best performances ever," 26 Sep. 2019 More importantly, the industry’s average revenue per user (ARPU)—a key measure of profitability—has hit a nadir. Mansi Taneja, Quartz India, "Even after a 40% hike, India has the cheapest data rates in the world—and that’s a problem," 10 Dec. 2019 Two days after seeing their season hit an apex with their best win of the campaign, the Spurs (7-14) found a nadir against the Pistons. Jeff Mcdonald,, "San Antonio Spurs crash in Motown against Pistons," 1 Dec. 2019

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

Time Traveler for nadir

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about nadir

Statistics for nadir

Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nadir.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nadir


How to pronounce nadir (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nadir

formal : the worst or lowest point of something

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on nadir

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nadir

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


not to be intimidated or subdued

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!