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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pelagic

pelagic noun

Synonyms for pelagic


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 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 My obsession has taken me from Florida, chasing pelagic fish to Oregon for pre-historic marvels. Kristtine Fischer, Outdoor Life, 6 May 2020 The bird reserve is home to four species of pelagic seabirds—the greater crested tern, lesser crested tern, sooty tern, and the brown noddy. K A Shaji, Quartz India, 5 May 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pelagic

Time Traveler for pelagic

Time Traveler

The first known use of pelagic was circa 1656

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about pelagic

Statistics for pelagic

Last Updated

19 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pelagic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pelagic



English Language Learners Definition of pelagic

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

More from Merriam-Webster on pelagic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pelagic


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!