so·​nar | \ ˈsō-ˌnär How to pronounce sonar (audio) \

Definition of sonar

: a method or device for detecting and locating objects especially underwater by means of sound waves sent out to be reflected by the objects also : a device for detecting the presence of a vessel (such as a submarine) by the sound it emits in water

Examples of sonar in a Sentence

They detected the submarine by using sonar.

Recent Examples on the Web

How the Navy might arm the Sea Hunter isn’t clear yet, but anti-submarine warfare from the ocean’s surface typically requires sonar—either mounted on the ship or dragged along below the surface—plus torpedoes. The Atlantic, "Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill," 3 Sep. 2019 Actually, bats have supersharp night vision, using echolocation, a form of natural sonar, to find their way around. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, "A well-turned simile can make us happy as a clam," 24 Aug. 2019 It is believed that the sonar sends the whale into a panic, surfacing too quickly and causing decompression, Schramm said. Adrian Rodriguez, The Mercury News, "Suspected rare Hubbs’ beaked whale dead at Point Reyes National Seashore," 22 Aug. 2019 The Nautilus didn’t approach the island directly but took a sweeping path that allowed the sonar to map the underwater terrain. Rachel Hartigan Shea, National Geographic, "Exclusive: Inside the search for Amelia Earhart’s airplane," 12 Aug. 2019 Their innovation was to deploy a multibeam sonar instrument—similar to technology commercial fishers use to spot a prizewinning catch—to repeatedly map the topography of the glacier’s face from a safe distance. Jennifer Leman, Scientific American, "Alarming Sonar Results Show Glaciers May Be Melting Faster Than We Expected," 26 July 2019 The ship had been previously located on sonar by underwater search specialist Gary Kozak. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Sunk in the Final Days of WWII, a U.S. Patrol Boat Is Found Off the Coast of Maine," 23 July 2019 The exhaustive search has included 360-degree imaging sonar which is placed on the bottom of the lake and gives a 360-degree image of the area. Carol Robinson |, al, "Couple charged with criminally negligent homicide in boat crash that killed Kelsey Starling," 21 Aug. 2019 Postmortems of stranded beaked whales after sonar tests have found hemorrhaging near the ears. Peter Fimrite,, "Rare Hubbs’ beaked whale found washed ashore, deceased, at Point Reyes," 20 Aug. 2019

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

1943, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sonar

sound navigation ranging

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Statistics for sonar

Last Updated

8 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for sonar

The first known use of sonar was in 1943

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More Definitions for sonar



English Language Learners Definition of sonar

: a device used for finding things that are underwater by using sound waves


so·​nar | \ ˈsō-ˌnär How to pronounce sonar (audio) \

Kids Definition of sonar

: a device for detecting objects underwater using reflected sound waves

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More from Merriam-Webster on sonar

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sonar

Spanish Central: Translation of sonar

Nglish: Translation of sonar for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about sonar

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