ter·​res·​tri·​al | \ tə-ˈre-st(r)ē-əl How to pronounce terrestrial (audio) ; -ˈres-chəl, -ˈresh- How to pronounce terrestrial (audio) \

Definition of terrestrial

1a : of or relating to the earth or its inhabitants terrestrial magnetism
b : mundane in scope or character : prosaic
2a : of or relating to land as distinct from air or water terrestrial transportation
b(1) : living on or in or growing from land terrestrial plants terrestrial birds
(2) : of or relating to terrestrial organisms terrestrial habits
3 : belonging to the class of planets that are like the earth (as in density and silicate composition) the terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars

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Other Words from terrestrial

terrestrial noun
terrestrially adverb

Did You Know?

Terrestrial might be a pretty down-to-earth word, but some of its relatives are out of this world. "Terrestrial" first appeared in English in the 15th century and derives from the Latin root terra, which means "earth." In the mid-1800s "extra-" was added to "terrestrial," giving us "extraterrestrial," an adjective that can be used to describe things (including science fiction creatures) that come from space. "Terrestrial" shares the "-al" suffix with "celestial," which was first used in the 14th century. Not surprisingly, "celestial" ("of or relating to the sky or visible heavens") traces back to the Latin for sky, "caelum."

Examples of terrestrial in a Sentence

The toad has terrestrial habits, spending most of its time on shore. scientists haven't even found all the terrestrial life on our planet
Recent Examples on the Web But as the only terrestrial vertebrates that can support themselves through scavenging, vultures are critical to the health of the African ecosystem. Charlie Hamilton James, National Geographic, "‘This is a full-blown crisis’: Fighting vulture poisoning in Kenya," 22 Nov. 2019 Their genomes are less than one-tenth the size of the human genome, and both live on moist surfaces, suggesting a somewhat terrestrial existence. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "Alien genes from bacteria helped plants conquer the land," 14 Nov. 2019 Around the globe, scientists analyzing ocean, lake, terrestrial and ice core records have identified large peaks in particles associated with burning, such as charcoal and soot, right at the time the Younger Dryas kicked in. Christopher R. Moore, The Conversation, "New evidence that an extraterrestrial collision 12,800 years ago triggered an abrupt climate change for Earth," 22 Oct. 2019 Both terrestrial and marine arthropods, including mites, spiders, millipedes, beetles, and wasps, were found in this amber, which dates back to the mid-Cretaceous era. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "A Squid-Like Mollusk Showed Up in Ancient Amber, and No One Knows How," 16 May 2019 Among terrestrial vertebrates, feet are far more uniform. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Feet," 8 May 2019 Bioluminescence is in fact markedly absent from all terrestrial vertebrates and flowering plants. Quanta Magazine, "In the Deep, Clues to How Life Makes Light," 1 Dec. 2016 The 1980 film took on a colder, more terrestrial tone, changing big sections of the book to fit Kubrick’s claustrophobic script. John Wenzel, The Know, "Review: “Doctor Sleep” melds King, Kubrick’s dark visions into an alluring nightmare," 8 Nov. 2019 The outcomes Soil is the largest terrestrial source of carbon and holds more of it than anything besides the oceans, according to the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Adam Brewster, CBS News, "Can farmers sow their way out of climate change?," 5 Nov. 2019

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for terrestrial

Middle English, from Latin terrestris, from terra earth — more at terrace entry 1

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Time Traveler for terrestrial

Time Traveler

The first known use of terrestrial was in the 15th century

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Statistics for terrestrial

Last Updated

2 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Terrestrial.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terrestrial. Accessed 11 December 2019.

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More Definitions for terrestrial


How to pronounce terrestrial (audio) How to pronounce terrestrial (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of terrestrial

: relating to or occurring on the earth
technical : living or growing on land instead of in water or air
: sending a broadcast signal from the Earth


ter·​res·​tri·​al | \ tə-ˈre-strē-əl How to pronounce terrestrial (audio) \

Kids Definition of terrestrial

1 : relating to the earth or its people Does anything like terrestrial life exist on other planets?
2 : living or growing on land terrestrial birds

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Comments on terrestrial

What made you want to look up terrestrial? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


heavy with or as if with moisture

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