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 Åshild Ønvik Pedersen, a terrestrial ecologist with the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), tells the Norwegian news outlet NRK, per a Google translation. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "More Than 200 Reindeer Starved to Death in Norway," 31 July 2019 But the airborne particles found in this study add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that microplastics could be contributing to air pollution — and thus could be impacting the health of terrestrial life on Earth, including humans. Los Angeles Times, "Microplastic in the atmosphere is making its way to the pristine Arctic," 15 Aug. 2019 The Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada, just north of Las Vegas, is home to Area 51, a secretive military base that alien conspiracy theorists have claimed hides the secrets of extra terrestrial life in the universe. Jasmine Aguilera, Time, "The Military Has a Warning for Anyone Interested In Raiding Area 51 In An Attempt To Free Aliens," 16 July 2019 Which leads to one logical answer: Aliens. Because of the high level of secrecy around Area 51, there have always been conspiracy theories swarming that extra-terrestrial life could be being researched there. Tatum Dooley, Teen Vogue, "Wondering What To Wear To Storm Area 51? Peep These Alien-Inspired Celebrity Looks.," 15 July 2019 After Gazza went to play for an Italian club, Channel 4, a terrestrial station, acquired the broadcast rights for matches from the Italian Serie A, which had many of the best players. Leo Robson, The New Yorker, "How We Watch Soccer Now," 5 Dec. 2016 In addition to royalties for terrestrial radio and song and album sales, the sync fees from movies and TV licensing are significant. Rob Tannenbaum, Los Angeles Times, "‘Taaaake onnn meee!’ The unkillable, oh-so-profitable afterlife of a-ha’s ‘80s classic," 16 Sep. 2019 More than 2 centuries ago, Alexander von Humboldt documented how climate and other physical conditions shape the ecology of terrestrial mountains. Warren Cornwall, Science | AAAS, "Mountains hidden in the deep sea are biological hot spots. Will mining ruin them?," 12 Sep. 2019 As future conflict increasingly has a dimension in space, war outside our atmosphere could be focused on killing vital surveillance and navigational satellites to give terrestrial armies an advantage. Alex Horton, Washington Post, "A secretive space drone just broke its own orbit record, and almost no one knows what it’s doing," 27 Aug. 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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Statistics for terrestrial

Last Updated

4 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for terrestrial

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

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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).


to engage in dissolute behavior

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