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plu·​vi·​al ˈplü-vē-əl How to pronounce pluvial (audio)
: of or relating to rain
: characterized by abundant rain
of a geologic change : resulting from the action of rain


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: a prolonged period of wet climate

Did you know?

In the early 17th century, clerics began wearing long cloaks known as "pluvials" for protection against the rain during processions. The name of the cloak is based on the Latin word for "rain": "pluvia." By the mid-17th century, "pluvial" was also being used as an adjective meaning "of or relating to rain," as in "pluvial water." Later, in the 19th century, it made a splash in the geologic field as a word describing epochs having relatively high average rainfall and things caused or formed by rain, like "pluvial erosion" or "pluvial lakes."

Examples of pluvial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Carla Burnside, an archaeologist with the refuge, notes that Malheur Lake and the refuge’s ponds are remnants of a large pluvial lake system that formed when rainwater filled the Harney Basin during wetter times thousands of years ago. April Reese, Discover Magazine, 8 Feb. 2016 The first trip back to Khorgo, in 2012, found evidence of the wet period, or pluvial, that Genghis rode to fame. Russ Juskalian, Discover Magazine, 28 May 2015 Instead of the rise of a khan, this modern pluvial overlapped with the country’s transition from Soviet satellite to market economy. Russ Juskalian, Discover Magazine, 28 May 2015 Grimm acknowledged the challenges the agency faces in terms of mapping pluvial flooding and the effects of a changing climate. Anchorage Daily News, 10 Dec. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pluvial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Latin pluvialis, from pluvia rain, from feminine of pluvius rainy, from pluere to rain — more at flow

First Known Use


1651, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1929, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pluvial was in 1651


Dictionary Entries Near pluvial

Cite this Entry

“Pluvial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

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