ter·​ra·​form ˈter-ə-ˌfȯrm How to pronounce terraform (audio)
terraformed; terraforming; terraforms

transitive verb

: to transform (a planet, moon, etc.) so that it is suitable for supporting human life
But instead of waiting for natural events to change the martian climate, they are suggesting that humans attempt to "terraform" Mars—to make it more Earth-like.Anne Barnard
Astronomy on Tap will also have two biologists coming in to discuss the best ways to terraform other planets for human colonization.Austin (Texas) American Statesman
It is not difficult to terraform Mars. Yes, we, with advances in robotics, can change Mars from a cold rock to a garden.Mike Helton

Did you know?

In the world of science fiction, life (uh) finds a way. Such is the goal of terraforming, a concept that has long served as a sci-fi staple. In fact, the word terraform can be traced to the genre’s Golden Age: the first known use of terraform was by the science fiction writer Jack Williamson who, writing under the pseudonym Will Stewart, included the word in his 1942 story “Collision Orbit.” Terraform applies the Latin noun terra (“land, earth”) as a prefix to the English verb form (“to shape or develop”). (Terra is evidenced in many English words, including terrain, terrace, and terra-cotta.) You may ask, “what is the future of terraforming?” Suffice it to say, we have no earthly idea.

Examples of terraform in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Annalee Newitz’s latest novel takes place on a single planet over a thousand years, where a corporation is looking to terraform it so humans can live there comfortably. Vanessa Armstrong, Vulture, 27 July 2023 And making an organism to terraform Saturn's moon Titan, if even possible, would undoubtedly cost more than some billionaire's chump change. Steve Mirsky, Scientific American, 1 Apr. 2020 On the planet Sask-E, her mission is to terraform an Earthlike world, with the help of her companion moose, Whistle. Donna Wares, Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 2023 Instead of changing a whole planet, why not just terraform a few choice locations? Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 14 June 2016 Comedy Mothership is the comedian and podcaster’s effort to launch what he’s described as an ideal venue for comics and an effort to terraform the Texas capitol into a major live comedy hub. James Hibberd, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Mar. 2023 However, a 2018 study noted the only greenhouse gas abundant enough to significantly warm Mars is carbon dioxide, and not enough of it remains on the Red Planet to successfully terraform it. Charles Choi, Discover Magazine, 15 July 2019 Their mission is to protect the Pupa, a living super computer that will one day evolve into its true form, consume them and terraform the Earth. Selome Hailu, Variety, 6 Oct. 2022 Surviving Mars lets players use magical future technology to terraform the Red Planet into a new Eden, creating a backup home in case Earth is ravaged beyond redemption. Mark Hill, Wired, 6 Jan. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'terraform.' 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 terra "ground, land, the earth" + form entry 2 — more at terrace entry 1

First Known Use

1949, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of terraform was in 1949


Dictionary Entries Near terraform

Cite this Entry

“Terraform.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terraform. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

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