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

Other Words from pelagic

pelagic noun

Synonyms for pelagic


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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 the sea—it is also a source of archipelago—plus the adjectival suffix -ikos.) Pelagic first showed up in dictionaries in 1656; a definition from that time says that Pelagick (as it was then spelled) meant "of the Sea, or that liveth in the Sea." Centuries 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 In other areas, the stocks of small pelagic fish can get dangerously low, and penguins end up competing with fisheries. Elizabeth Warkentin, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Oct. 2021 Fishing practices, such as fish aggregating devices, which are floating objects designed and strategically placed to attract pelagic fish, are also thought to have contributed to the decline. Tamara Hardingham-gill, CNN, 23 July 2021 Once the pipe hit bottom, a drill plunged down to 75 meters into pelagic clay and calcareous nannofossil ooze at multiple different sites. Jennifer Frazer, Scientific American, 4 Mar. 2021 That affects how much plankton is available for small pelagic fish to eat. Layla Schlack, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 Mar. 2021 But Vestergaard became a national hero, especially for fishermen and shipowners, who were fishing more pelagic fish than ever. Regin Winther Poulsen, The Atlantic, 13 Feb. 2021 Large pelagic ocean dwellers swim along this reef to hunt prey. John Christopher Fine,, 31 Dec. 2020 From the late 1920s on, these shore stations were replaced by pelagic whaling stations, where whales were processed more efficiently on factory ships at sea. Alessandro Antonello, The Conversation, 13 Nov. 2020 Due to altered nutrient pathways, abundance of pelagic baitfish has declined. Steve Quinn, Outdoor Life, 18 June 2020 See More

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.

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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The first known use of pelagic was circa 1656

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pelagic deposits

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Cite this Entry

“Pelagic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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