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 It should also be noted that while misguided virus responses from state and local governments have indeed resulted in 10 million fewer people with jobs than in early 2020, the shutdowns actually killed more than 22 million jobs at their nadir. James Freeman, WSJ, "Biden’s ‘Inheritance’," 21 Jan. 2021 Since that nadir, homestay and experience bookings have steadied, and are about 20 percent below 2019 levels. Meredith Carey, Condé Nast Traveler, "What Airbnb's IPO Means for the Future of the Company," 10 Dec. 2020 Despite the competing claims, Maduro is already the practical leader of Venezuela, and the opposition has been reduced to its nadir over the past two years, with several top figures fleeing abroad. Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, "Venezuelans are being asked to vote twice in a week in two conflicting polls," 7 Dec. 2020 Yes, the Russell 2000 is having a bull run for the ages, up 87% since its March nadir. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "The Dow’s record run to 30K is nothing compared to the rally in these small caps," 25 Nov. 2020 That theory, dubbed the amyloid hypothesis, had reached a scientific nadir in recent years after a string of similar medicines failed to benefit patients in key clinical trials., "Biogen gets stock bump on Eli Lilly Alzheimer’s news," 11 Jan. 2021 Air travel in the United States has gradually grown in spurts and stops since its April nadir of just 87,534 flights. Tyler Van Dyke, Washington Examiner, "Christmas travel brings out most air passengers since early days of pandemic," 24 Dec. 2020 On April 15, the United States reached a grim nadir in the pandemic: 2,752 people across the country were reported to have died from COVID-19 that Wednesday, more than on any day before or since. Campbell Robertson, Star Tribune, "Virus deaths approach April 15 record amid changing U.S. crisis," 28 Nov. 2020 That nadir was quite a shock for a program that had risen to historic heights under coach Mark Slessinger, who in 2017 led UNO to the Southland tournament title and took the program to its first NCAA tournament in 21 years. Staff Report,, "UNO men's basketball team hopes to prove 2019-20 season was aberration," 23 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

20 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nadir.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of nadir

formal : the worst or lowest point of something

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