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

Definition of ocean

1a : the whole body of salt water that covers nearly three fourths of the surface of the earth
b : any of the large bodies of water (such as the Atlantic Ocean) into which the great ocean is divided
2 : a very large or unlimited space or quantity

Keep scrolling for more

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 The numbers of sawfish in the ocean have declined dramatically over the years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "A man could get a year in prison and a $50,000 fine for killing an endangered sawfish," 4 Nov. 2019 Etzioni posits such a computer could calculate solutions to climate change, the over-saturation of plastic in oceans, and potential asteroid strikes. NBC News, "'Terminator' at 35: How AI and the militarization of tech has evolved," 2 Nov. 2019 Gillnets, walls of netting that rise vertically in the ocean to catch many fish at a time, present a major risk to right whales, whose numbers have plummeted by about 20 percent since 2010. BostonGlobe.com, "Federal judge requires fishing areas off Nantucket closed to protect right whales - The Boston Globe," 29 Oct. 2019 Will that plastic utensil or plate end up in the ocean? Letter Writers, Twin Cities, "Letters: Election is not a coronation and the president is not sovereign," 17 Oct. 2019 Peeing in the ocean is both allowed and encouraged. Eli Grober, The New Yorker, "Earth: Updated Terms and Conditions," 9 Oct. 2019 Algae plays an crucial role in converting carbon dioxide to oxygen naturally in the ocean. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Machine That Uses Algae to Eat Carbon Dioxide," 2 Oct. 2019 Take your time, swimming in the ocean at the end of each day or renting surfboards along the way. Outside Online, "The Ultimate Adventure Guide to Costa Rica," 23 Sep. 2019 As reported by National Geographic, of the 8 million tons of plastic that flows into the ocean every year, plastic straws account for just 0.025 percent. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "Why Ban Plastic Straws?," 23 Sep. 2019

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.

See More

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ocean

Statistics for ocean

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for ocean

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ocean


How to pronounce ocean (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on ocean

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ocean

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ocean

Spanish Central: Translation of ocean

Nglish: Translation of ocean for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ocean for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ocean

Comments on ocean

What made you want to look up ocean? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to speed up the process or progress of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • pasta resembling wheels with spokes
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!