pe·​lag·​ic | \ pə-ˈla-jik How to pronounce pelagic (audio) \

Definition of pelagic

: of, relating to, or living or occurring in the open sea : oceanic pelagic sediment pelagic birds

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Other Words from pelagic

pelagic noun

Synonyms for pelagic


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Did You Know?

Pelagic comes to us from Greek, via Latin. The Greek word pelagikos became "pelagicus" in Latin and then "pelagic" in English. ("Pelagikos" is derived from "pelagos," the Greek word for "sea," plus the adjectival suffix -ikos.) "Pelagic" first showed up in dictionaries in 1656; a definition from that time says that Pelagick meant "of the Sea, or that liveth in the Sea." A full 350 years later, writers are still using "pelagic" with the same meaning, albeit less frequently than its more familiar synonym "oceanic."

Examples of pelagic in a Sentence

among pelagic animals the undisputed king is the blue whale, the largest creature currently roaming the face of the earth at one time pelagic whaling was the cornerstone of the island's economy
Recent Examples on the Web Visitors will not only explore submarine feeding stations attracting large pelagic fish like manta rays and pilot whales, but gain a deeper understanding of one of the world’s most isolated societies. Brandon Presser, Harper's BAZAAR, "The 20 Best Places to Travel in 2020," 30 Dec. 2019 Only one pelagic cormorant nest was found — and later abandoned by the parents — when researchers typically see 150 nests. Will Houston, The Mercury News, "Poor Farallon Islands bird breeding season prompts alarm," 2 Sep. 2019 Recent bird sightings as reported to the Massachusetts Audubon Society: ► The number of shorebirds seen at coastal sites seem somewhat reduced in recent days, but things are really heating up for pelagic bird activity offshore., "Bird sightings across the region," 26 Aug. 2019 She's dabbled in everything from research on pelagic invertebrates to animations about beer to podcasts about fake tumbleweed farms. Rose Eveleth, Scientific American, "Your Employer May Be Spying on You—and Wasting Its Time," 16 Aug. 2019 Bricks walls bear chipped, pelagic-blue paint and a list European city names: Budapest, Krakow, Lviv, Bucharest, Odessa. Travis Deshong, Washington Post, "America fell in love with ‘Jeopardy!’ again this year. In Washington, the romance never faded.," 8 July 2019 Now, new research off the California coast suggests an even larger plastics reservoir: deep offshore pelagic waters, the largest habitat on Earth. National Geographic, "Tiny plastic pieces are spread throughout the deep sea," 6 June 2019 His collection includes chocolate porcelain crabs, pelagic red crabs, scarlet sea cucumbers and sea butterflies — all species once rare but now common to the Sonoma coast. Nick Rahaim,, "How is climate change is effecting oceans? Check the tide pools," 21 June 2019 Called pelagic red crabs, the animals look like small lobsters or crawfish and measure one to three inches long. Elaina Zachos, National Geographic, "Thousands of Tiny Red Crustaceans Strand on California Beach," 12 June 2018

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

circa 1656, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pelagic

Latin pelagicus, from Greek pelagikos, from pelagos sea — more at plagal

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Time Traveler for pelagic

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The first known use of pelagic was circa 1656

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Last Updated

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pelagic.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 29 January 2020.

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How to pronounce pelagic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pelagic

technical : relating to or living in the sea far from the shore

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Comments on pelagic

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


to assert without proof or before proving

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