Definition of terrestrial in English:

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Pronunciation: /təˈrestrēəl/


1Of, on, or relating to the earth: increased ultraviolet radiation may disrupt terrestrial ecosystems
More example sentences
  • Concerns about global climate change and predicted changes in terrestrial ecosystems highlight the need for the accurate quantification of productivity at all scales.
  • Boreal forests and arctic tundra are among the coldest and least productive terrestrial environments on earth.
  • Clearly we still have a ways to go before oceans and marine wildlife receive the same level of attention afforded to terrestrial ecosystems.
earthly, worldly, mundane, earthbound, land
literary sublunary
1.1Denoting television broadcasting using equipment situated on the ground rather than by satellite: terrestrial and cable technology
More example sentences
  • Now there is Channel 5, digital terrestrial television, digital satellite and cable.
  • In 1996 the government decided to allocate frequency space to digital terrestrial television to start broadcasts in 1998.
  • Events that appear set to continue to be broadcast on terrestrial television include the All Ireland finals and rugby internationals.
1.2Of or on dry land: a submarine eruption will be much more explosive than its terrestrial counterpart
More example sentences
  • Like their terrestrial counterparts, the oceanic deserts are low in biomass.
  • Today's terrestrial habitats are dominated by the angiosperms - flowering plants, one of whose key features is the possession of fruits of a wide range of forms and types.
  • The Crustaceamorpha are arguably the most well known of the arthropods because of their contributions to aquatic, aerial, and terrestrial food webs.
1.3(Of an animal) living on or in the ground; not aquatic, arboreal, or aerial.
Example sentences
  • Northern Waterthrushes eat large aquatic and terrestrial insects, small crustaceans, and other invertebrates.
  • As terrestrial creatures, we tend to think of life on our planet as being essentially life on land.
  • But somewhat surprisingly, this terrestrial arachnid doesn't mind swimming, either.
1.4(Of a plant) growing on land or in the soil; not aquatic or epiphytic.
Example sentences
  • Many vascular epiphytes share the understorey environment with terrestrial herbs, shrubs and tree seedlings.
  • Both the water ferns and Ceratopteris occur in clades with terrestrial ferns and the aquatic habit appears to be derived in these lineages.
  • Ananas is a terrestrial genus, but it grows continuously, whereas most terrestrial orchids have distinct active and dormant phases.
1.5 Astronomy (Of a planet) similar in size or composition to the earth, especially being one of the four inner planets of our solar system.
Example sentences
  • The terrestrial planets in our solar system all have very specific spectroscopic fingerprints that tell us quite a bit about their atmospheres.
  • From the evidence found on the Moon, geophysicists can extrapolate a picture of the early history of the four terrestrial planets.
  • Like earth, Mars is a terrestrial planet quite unlike the spectacularly strange gas giants that lie beyond the ‘Red Planet’ and the Asteroid Belt.
1.6 archaic Relating to the earth as opposed to heaven.
Example sentences
  • A medieval painting of angel musicians does not prove that their rebecs, harps, and lutes were used in church music but may hint at the musical activities of their terrestrial counterparts.


An inhabitant of the earth.
Example sentences
  • That is certainly plausible enough, but is he really the man to lecture us terrestrials on the distinction between ‘science’ and ‘fantasy’?
  • The Rose Center is a crystal cube, a machine in a garden, a welcoming space station for both terrestrials and aliens (that's anyone from outside Manhattan).
  • Now it had become a reality in a queer way, but what a letdown it was, dreaming of the celestial and getting the terrestrial.



Example sentences
  • ‘We will compete with anyone who offers Internet access, whether terrestrially or by satellite,’ adds iSky CEO Tom Moore.
  • In addition, the sediments have suffered remarkably little burial and thermal alteration and contain well preserved marine organisms and terrestrially derived plant remains.
  • Mechanical failures considered minor in terrestrially based equipment can prove catastrophic in space because we cannot service the system hardware.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'temporal, worldly, mundane'): from Latin terrestris (from terra 'earth') + -al.

  • terrace from early 16th century:

    In the early 16th century a terrace was an open gallery, and later it came to mean a platform or balcony in a theatre. A terrace of houses was originally a row built slightly above the level of the road—the first terrace of houses was mentioned in the 1760s, at first in street names like Adelphi Terrace. The source was a medieval French word meaning ‘rubble, platform’, based on Latin terra ‘earth’, the source of many other English words such as terrain (early 18th century), terrestrial (Late Middle English), territory (Late Middle English), and subterranean (early 17th century). A territory was originally the area surrounding a town and was subject to its laws. To say that something goes with the territory is to say that it is an unavoidable result of a situation. Territory here is probably used in the sense ‘the area in which a sales representative or distributor has the right to operate’, which developed in the US in the early 20th century. In Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman (1949), the central character Willy Loman tells his son that a salesman has to dream: ‘It comes with the territory.’ See also kop

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ter·res·tri·al

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