plural oceans
often attributive
: the whole body of salt water that covers nearly three fourths of the surface of the earth
The ocean covers most of our planet, regulates our weather and climate, absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide, provides most of our oxygen, and feeds much of the human population.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
: any of the large bodies of water into which the great ocean is divided
the oceans of the world
: a very large or unlimited quantity or expanse
Could have made oceans of money.James Joyce
He would have oceans of time for his ride.P. G. Wodehouse
Jutting from an ocean of prairie, they [the Sangre de Cristo mountains] run north-south like an iguana spine …Skiing

Examples of ocean in a Sentence

We've sailed across hundreds of miles of ocean. the Pacific and Indian oceans
Recent Examples on the Web But the news cycle, like a warming ocean, or a wildfire, does not always conform to a politician’s plans. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 21 Sep. 2023 All of the swimmers made it out of the ocean unscathed. Travis Hall, Field & Stream, 21 Sep. 2023 People will also still be able to access the ocean from the closed area. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Sep. 2023 Kalach’s main goal was to dispense with anything nonessential to resting, reading or staring at the ocean. Suleman Anaya Fabian Martinez, New York Times, 20 Sep. 2023 Luis Garcia’s projections — ocean waves, storm clouds, eddies on a pool’s surface — and Daniel Ocanto’s sound design help the images reverberate. Celia Wren, Washington Post, 20 Sep. 2023 That’s because it’s sandwiched between the ocean on one side and the Awcomin Salt Marsh on the other. Amanda Gokee,, 19 Sep. 2023 The process is energy intensive — often fueled by greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels — and produces a thick, briny sludge on the back-end that is typically released back into the ocean. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 19 Sep. 2023 At the same moment as viewers around the world, the team in the control room of the Exploration Vessel Nautilus looks miles below the ocean at the shipwreck of the USS Yorktown. Evan Bush, NBC News, 18 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ocean.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English occean "the sea flowing around the land mass of the known world," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin Ōceanus, borrowed from Greek Ōkeanós, probably of pre-Greek substratal origin

Note: Preserved variants of Greek Ōkeanós, as Ōgḗn, Ōgenós, Ōgēnós, may indicate that the velar stop, whatever its original voicing, was palatalized (hence *ūkʸān-?)—strongly suggesting non-Indo-European origin. Old attempts to find an Indo-European origin (as a comparison with Sanskrit ā-śayāna- "lying on") are unconvincing.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of ocean was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near ocean

Cite this Entry

“Ocean.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


: the whole body of salt water that covers nearly three fourths of the surface of the earth
: one of the large bodies of water into which the ocean is divided

More from Merriam-Webster on ocean

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!