Definition of earth in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ərTH/


1 (also Earth) The planet on which we live; the world: the diversity of life on earth
More example sentences
  • This is because Venus and the Earth orbit the Sun at a slight angle to each other.
  • At the side of the Earth nearest the Moon the oceans bulge upwards due to its pull.
  • It seems that several of the earlier philosophers had concluded that the Earth is a globe.
world, globe, planet
1.1The surface of the world as distinct from the sky or the sea: it plummeted back to earth at 60 mph
More example sentences
  • The earth plummeted into what appeared to be a succession of bottomless valleys, first on our left, then our right, as we meandered ever upwards.
  • As the fat, large drops fell from the heavens and hit the parched earth, the land that had once been in a drought rejoiced, and the angels were glad.
  • The fog, a misty white at the very base of the mountain, where trees still grew, gave way to earth and, as earth gave way to sky, sky gave way to storm clouds.
land, ground, terra firma;
1.2The present abode of humankind, as distinct from heaven or hell.
Example sentences
  • A new heaven and a new earth will replace the world as we know it today.
  • God's reign is already present on our earth in mystery.
  • The emphasis that there are heaven and earth founds a distinction between the accessible earth and a transcendent realm that is yet part of the creation.

The earth is the third planet from the sun in the solar system, orbiting between Venus and Mars at an average distance of 90 million miles (149.6 million km) from the sun, and has one natural satellite, the moon. It has an equatorial diameter of 7,654 miles (12,756 km), an average density 5.5 times that of water, and is believed to have formed about 4,600 million years ago. The earth, which is three-quarters covered by oceans and has a dense atmosphere of nitrogen and oxygen, is the only planet known to support life.

2The substance of the land surface; soil: a layer of earth
More example sentences
  • In this case a motorcyclist was injured in a collision at a junction where visibility was restricted by a bank of earth on land owned by British Rail.
  • Veil desperately tried to leap out, but a big clod of earth landed on his head.
  • Made of rammed earth - the soil excavated from the site - the wall alleviated the need to buy soil or use wood to fence the property.
soil, clay, loam;
dirt, sod, turf;
2.1One of the four elements in ancient and medieval philosophy and in astrology (considered essential to certain signs of the zodiac).
Example sentences
  • As the cardinal earth sign Capricorn portrays the enduring and irrepressible spirit of nature.
  • Virgo is an earth sign, which is ruled by pragmatism and logic.
  • An earth sign, they have a particular love of helping in the garden, and of long country walks - and they usually love the rain.
2.2A stable, dense, nonvolatile inorganic substance found in the ground.
Example sentences
  • Sparkling or still, it is purified ‘using naturally occurring ceramic earths, coconut and anthracite carbon to create a great house taste’.
  • By the usual convention, the element he obtained became known as cerium (all the earths had names ending in - ia, with the ending changed to - ium for the element).
  • A year later Charles Galissard de Marignac in Geneva found a further earth in this substance, which Lecoq isolated in 1886 and called gadolinium.
2.3 literary The substance of the human body.
Example sentences
  • You entrust to the earth our bodies of earth which you fashioned with your own hands and you restore again what you have given, transforming with incorruptibility and grace what is mortal and deformed in us.
  • The book is full of ghosts for whom the poet feels duty-bound to speak, and for the most part his theme is what the ghosts long for, the lovely body of earth.
3The underground lair or habitation of a badger or fox.
Example sentences
  • Many hunts take steps the night before, or early on the day of the hunt, to block up the entrances to earths, badger setts and artificial places such as drains.
  • Foxhunters block up earths and badger setts the night before the hunt to ensure that foxes are forced to run until exhausted.
  • The night before the hunt, foxhunters cover up any earths and badger setts to make sure that the foxes have to run until exhausted.
den, lair, set, burrow, warren, hole;
retreat, shelter, hideout, hideaway
4 British term for ground1 (sense 7 of the noun).
Example sentences
  • It is possible to stop a radio signal leaking into the ground via its earth cable by carefully choosing the height at which the antenna is mounted.
  • It has exposed mains voltage solder points on top, no earth connection and one very flimsy and very dull aluminium end.
  • Older electrical systems in council flats don't have earth wires.


[with object]
1 (earth something up) Cover the root and lower stem of a plant with heaped-up earth.
Example sentences
  • The stems can be blanched by earthing them up, which makes the astringent flavour milder.
  • You will, however, have to do some digging: once to plant the seed potatoes; once to earth them up to prevent the new tubers growing on the surface and becoming poisonously green; and once to lift the resultant crop.
  • Instead of earthing my potatoes up, I've been mulching some of them with excess swiss chard and lettuce plants I have been cutting down recently.
2 Hunting Drive (a fox) to its underground lair.
2.1 [no object] (Of a fox) run to its underground lair.
3 Electrical British term for ground1 (sense 5 of the verb).
Example sentences
  • When plugged in, the pump is earthed and I have a little more piece of mind!
  • It was only because the bottom of the sheet stuck in the ground and was earthed that James survived.
  • They are not able to be earthed, filtered, or shielded electrically.



come (or bring) back (down) to earth

Return or cause to return to reality after a period of daydreaming or excitement.
Example sentences
  • The problem with holidays is coming back to earth afterwards.
  • Sarah said: ‘It has been an opportunity to relax and come to terms with what Sally and I have achieved before returning home and coming back down to earth.’
  • The only trouble with this form of mental escape is that sooner or later you must come back to earth, the jolt of this being pretty terrific.

the earth moved (or did the earth move for you?)

humorous One had (or did you have?) an orgasm.
Example sentences
  • Of those, a bare majority of 55% admitted that the earth moved for them.
  • It's been a while since the earth moved for dear old John, bless him.

go to earth

(Of a hunted animal) hide in an underground burrow.
Example sentences
  • After a two hour chase it finally went to earth but a trap was set and the fox captured the next day and bagged so ‘it will again afford another day's sport’.
  • I saw it go to earth as I got between two buildings on Foss Islands Road.
3.1Go into hiding: he’d gone to earth after that meeting
More example sentences
  • An anti-hunting MP was forced to go to earth in the face of a noisy protest at one of his routine constituency surgeries by angry Yorkshire hunt supporters.
  • Intelligence forces have complained that several high-profile suspects they'd been keeping an eye on have gone to earth and now can't be found.
  • She had gone to earth in the pit opened by the torn-up roots of a fallen tree, and sprang out at his approach.

like nothing on earth

informal Very strange: they looked like nothing on earth
More example sentences
  • The noise would be like nothing on earth - certainly nothing in Bellagio.
  • What turned up was quite a surprise. It looked like black pudding but tasted like nothing on earth.
  • There was a sound like nothing on earth: groups of male capuchin birds attract females with sounds like the whine of some outer-space cicada insect crossed with a sick cow.

on earth

Used for emphasis: who on earth would venture out in weather like this?
More example sentences
  • So my question is, how on earth do you keep tabs on all of the available programming?
  • You may wonder what on earth has prompted me to ask such a question, so let me explain.
  • The question that remains to baffle us is why on earth it took so long for anything to be done.


Old English eorthe, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch aarde and German Erde.

  • It is impossible to tell which meaning of earth came first in English: the senses ‘the ground’, ‘our planet’, and ‘soil’ are all found in Old English. Related words in other languages are German Erde and Dutch aarde, as in aardvark. Earth meaning ‘the underground lair of a badger or fox’ dates from the late Middle Ages. ‘The earth’ has been used in idioms like pay the earth, cost the earth and expect the earth since the 1920s. Many of the earliest examples are by the comic novelist P. G. Wodehouse (1881–1975)—he probably did not invent them, but spotted new slang expressions of the day. We think of earthling as being a term from science fiction, but it actually goes back at least as far as 1593: ‘We (of all earthlings) are God's utmost subjects’ (Thomas Nashe, Christ's Tears).

Words that rhyme with earth

berth, birth, dearth, firth, girth, mirth, Perth, worth

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: earth

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.