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

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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 But Vestergaard became a national hero, especially for fishermen and shipowners, who were fishing more pelagic fish than ever. Regin Winther Poulsen, The Atlantic, "The Rules for Dividing the Ocean’s Riches Are Breaking," 13 Feb. 2021 Large pelagic ocean dwellers swim along this reef to hunt prey. John Christopher Fine,, "Boynton Beach diving: Underwater surprises await | Opinion," 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, "200 years ago, people discovered Antarctica – and promptly began profiting by slaughtering some of its animals to near extinction," 13 Nov. 2020 Due to altered nutrient pathways, abundance of pelagic baitfish has declined. Steve Quinn, Outdoor Life, "The Ultimate Guide to Fishing the Great Lakes this Summer," 18 June 2020 My obsession has taken me from Florida, chasing pelagic fish to Oregon for pre-historic marvels. Kristtine Fischer, Outdoor Life, "How to Catch Big Fish from a Kayak," 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, "India readies the world’s first safe zone for sea cucumbers," 5 May 2020 In the next moments, all around me, lines were tight and various species of fish landed on the deck — lingcod, yellow-eye, black bass, even a mottled, black-and-orange, non-pelagic rockfish with venomous quills. Anchorage Daily News, "Sometimes, fishing is just what the teledoc ordered," 27 Apr. 2020 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

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

24 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pelagic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of pelagic

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

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