ter·res·tri·al | \tə-ˈre-st(r)ē-əl; -ˈres-chəl, -ˈresh- \

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

Whether the moths use celestial, terrestrial or a combination of beacons, remains unclear. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "Magnetic Sense Helps Billions of Moths on an Australian Migration," 21 June 2018 This is a tactic employed by terrestrial and aerial prey species but not widely recorded under water. The Economist, "When faced with a killer whale should you fight or flee?," 14 June 2018 The largest terrestrial mammal 200 years from now could well be the domestic cow, Smith’s research suggests. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, "In 200 Years Cows May Be the Biggest Land Mammals on the Planet," 20 Apr. 2018 Celestial magick exists at the intersection of the terrestrial and cosmic realms — a perfect example is astrology. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "A Beginner's Guide to Casting Your Own Spells at Home," 26 Mar. 2018 The red light district Red light is relatively rare in both marine and terrestrial creatures, as these longer wavelengths can be too dim for even human eyes. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Why Bioluminescence Evolved to Be Red Light, and Blue," 26 June 2018 Consumers have immediate access to those heritage acts through streaming platforms, a bevy of SiriusXM satellite channels or classic country terrestrial formats, which were scarce in previous decades. Tom Roland, Billboard, "Country's Roots Are Showing as New Releases Embrace Old-School Sounds," 11 July 2018 To adhere to the principle of planetary protection, any spacecraft going to Mars, or to any other destination where conditions for life might exist, should not contaminate that environment with our terrestrial microbes. Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, "NASA needs to upgrade its ‘planetary protection’ efforts, experts say," 2 July 2018 On Palmyra Atoll near Hawaii, for instance, rodents were even mucking with terrestrial vegetation. Matt Simon, WIRED, "Rats! Coral Reefs Aren't Getting the Bird Poop They Need," 11 July 2018

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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Last Updated

21 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for terrestrial

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

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More Definitions for terrestrial



English Language Learners Definition of terrestrial

: relating to or occurring on the earth

: 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 \

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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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