Definition of pelagic in English:

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Pronunciation: /pɪˈladʒɪk/


1Relating to the open sea: the kittiwakes return from their pelagic winter wanderings
More example sentences
  • Most deep-sea trenches in the Pacific are floored by normal basaltic oceanic crust overlain by pelagic sediments and ash.
  • The pelagic environment is further divided based on water depth.
  • Aquatic ecologists have many models for size distributions of pelagic communities.
1.1(Chiefly of fish) inhabiting the upper layers of the open sea: there are very few pelagic fish to be seen Often contrasted with demersal.
More example sentences
  • Adult beluga sturgeon are mainly piscivores, swimming at middle depths and preying mostly on pelagic fish species.
  • Among coastal river otters in this region, sociality could be explained by the benefits obtained from cooperative foraging on high-quality schooling pelagic fishes.
  • Under such conditions, we predict that more social otters would have diets higher in better quality pelagic fishes, compared with otters that exhibit low levels of sociality.
1.2(Of a bird) inhabiting the open sea and returning to the shore only to breed.
Example sentences
  • The Northern Gannet is a large pelagic bird that only comes ashore to breed.
  • Whales have been scarce, and the pelagic birds are feeding close to shore.
  • Usually you can expect to see great numbers of pelagic birds - gannets, shearwaters, jaegers, storm-petrels, alcids - that live mainly at sea.


A pelagic fish or bird.
Example sentences
  • Turtles, large shoals of fish and pelagics including hammerhead, sharks, manta rays and whale sharks are often encountered.
  • But we are also worried because in order to feed these tuna the industry needs other fleets which should fish for the small pelagics to be fed to tuna.
  • There also tends to be more current here, preferred by some of the larger reef fishes and the pelagics.


Mid 17th century: via Latin from Greek pelagikos, from pelagios 'of the sea' (from pelagos 'level surface of the sea').

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