noun, often attributive
\ ˈō-shən How to pronounce ocean (audio) \
plural oceans

Definition of ocean

1a : the whole body of salt water that covers nearly three fourths of the surface of the earth The ocean covers most of our planet, regulates our weather and climate, absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide, provides most of our oxygen, and feeds much of the human population.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
b : any of the large bodies of water into which the great ocean is divided the oceans of the world
2 : a very large or unlimited quantity or expanse Could have made oceans of money.— James Joyce He would have oceans of time for his ride.— P. G. Wodehouse Jutting from an ocean of prairie, they [the Sangre de Cristo mountains] run north-south like an iguana spine …Skiing

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Examples of ocean in a Sentence

We've sailed across hundreds of miles of ocean. the Pacific and Indian oceans
Recent Examples on the Web Just like the international waters of the ocean, the atmosphere is considered a global commons. Alice Gorman, CNN, "The growing problem of space junk," 8 May 2021 Upper stages that reach orbit usually fire the engine again after releasing their payloads, guiding them toward re-entry in an unoccupied area like the middle of an ocean. New York Times, "Heads Up! A Used Chinese Rocket Is Tumbling Back to Earth This Weekend.," 6 May 2021 For those who like a view of the ocean that’s higher than eye level, Charmlee Wilderness Park above Malibu offers wide-angle views, often with Catalina and Santa Barbara islands on the horizon. Los Angeles Times, "6 hikes perfect for a Mother’s Day picnic," 6 May 2021 The collection is full of soft pastel colors and reminds one of the gentle waves of the ocean, and sandy beaches with swaying palm trees. Angela Lei, Forbes, "House Of Sunny To Drop First Menswear Collection After A Phenomenal 2020," 5 May 2021 Walnut and limestone floors line the home, while floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors maximize the light and views of the ocean. Emily Nonko, WSJ, "Shutterstock Founder Jonathan Oringer Lists Hamptons Home for $52 Million," 4 May 2021 And her home is certainly fit for Hollywood royalty: Built in the style of a home in France's Normandy region, the estate boasts a private courtyard entrance and sweeping views of the ocean. Jada Jackson, House Beautiful, "Bette Davis's Charming Laguna Beach Home Hits the Market for $20 Million," 3 May 2021 Hidden in the depths of the ocean lives the peculiar Dumbo octopus. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, "New Species of Dumbo Octopus Identified Using 3-D Imaging Techniques," 30 Apr. 2021 Another huge percentage of plastic waste ends up in large pieces at the bottom of the ocean. Mike Wehner, BGR, "We’re ruining Earth’s oceans one piece of plastic at a time," 28 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ocean.' 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 ocean

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ocean

Middle English occean "the sea flowing around the land mass of the known world," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin Ōceanus, borrowed from Greek Ōkeanós, probably of pre-Greek substratal origin

Note: Preserved variants of Greek Ōkeanós, as Ōgḗn, Ōgenós, Ōgēnós, may indicate that the velar stop, whatever its original voicing, was palatalized (hence *ūkʸān-?)—strongly suggesting non-Indo-European origin. Old attempts to find an Indo-European origin (as a comparison with Sanskrit ā-śayāna- "lying on") are unconvincing.

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Learn More about ocean

Time Traveler for ocean

Time Traveler

The first known use of ocean was in the 14th century

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Statistics for ocean

Last Updated

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ocean.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ocean. Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for ocean



English Language Learners Definition of ocean

: the salt water that covers much of the Earth's surface
: one of the five large areas of salt water that cover much of the Earth's surface
informal : a very large number or amount of something


\ ˈō-shən How to pronounce ocean (audio) \

Kids Definition of ocean

1 : the whole body of salt water that covers nearly three fourths of the earth
2 : one of the large bodies of water into which the larger body that covers the earth is divided

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