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 The conservation ecologist Francesca Cagnacci, who coordinates a research consortium dedicated to studying the movement of terrestrial mammals, likens ICARUS to a sports car compared with a normal car. New York Times, "Skip to site index," 12 Jan. 2021 Dual observations made by terrestrial telescopes and Akatsuki would go a long way to convincing the community that lightning has been identified, Curry says. Robin George Andrews, Science, "Does lightning strike on Venus? Mysterious flash may help solve puzzle.," 28 Dec. 2020 The results of such work studying bodies in terrestrial environments were very promising, according to Procopio. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Scientists ID potential biomarkers to peg time of death for submerged corpses," 26 Dec. 2020 Others, however, described the show as the product of extra terrestrial collaboration or the work of a science fiction dystopia. Li Cohen, CBS News, "Seattle's Space Needle welcomed 2021 with a virtual light show that was out of this world," 1 Jan. 2021 Aquatic forage is skimpy in fall, and the trout rely more on terrestrial insects that fall to the water from surrounding vegetation. Popular Science, "A beginner’s guide to catching trout—even in autumn," 26 Oct. 2020 Though the wobbling frequency helps scientists rule out a terrestrial explanation for the signal, the beam could have come from a travelling satellite or other device. Claire Bugos, Smithsonian Magazine, "Astronomers Discover Mysterious Radio Signal From Proxima Centauri," 22 Dec. 2020 The story of the Spaniard is not just about travel to the moon, but also about a terrestrial phenomenon that was one of the great scientific mysteries from the ancient Greeks to the 17th century: Where did the birds go in winter? Popular Science, "Before we knew how bird migration worked, scientists had some truly wild theories," 17 Dec. 2020 Measuring electrical infrastructure from space photos can be less time consuming and can sidestep terrestrial sensitivities that prevent a clear picture of a community’s needs. Tom Simonite, Wired, "A Clever Strategy to Distribute Covid Aid—With Satellite Data," 17 Dec. 2020

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

26 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Terrestrial.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terrestrial. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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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

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