Definition of depth in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /dɛpθ/


[mass noun]
1The distance from the top or surface to the bottom of something: water of no more than 12 feet in depth
More example sentences
  • What is the condition of the bottom and depth of soft mud in that berth?
  • Wading usually is easy over a gravel bottom of predictable depth and flow, with ample room for backcasts.
  • Pots were PVC cylinders, 20 cm diameter and 50 cm depth, sealed at the bottom.
deepness, distance downwards, distance inwards, distance from the outside;
drop, vertical drop, vertical extent, profundity
1.1The distance from the front to the back of something: the depth of the wardrobe
More example sentences
  • It was unsurpassed in the length of the front, depth of the advance and retreat, duration of continuous fighting, and the size of the armies on each side.
  • The hood is a separate panel that adds depth to the front section, and ties the fenders, greenhouse and nose together.
  • Despite all that the Nazi forces breached the Voronezh Front to the depth of 30-35 kilometers.
1.2The distance from the top or surface of something to a specified lower point within it: [in singular]: loosen the soil to a depth of 8 inches
More example sentences
  • A retractable floor in the learner pool raises and lowers to a depth of 2.5metres and it has a pioneering access system with platforms and lifts for the disabled.
  • All stone and other deleterious material larger than 3 inches shall be buried to a depth of not less than 24 inches or such other depth as may be agreed with the Local Planning Authority.
  • The fires penetrated into the dried-out surface peat to a depth of up to 1.5 metres.
1.3The apparent existence of three dimensions in a picture or other two-dimensional representation: texture in a picture gives it depth
More example sentences
  • John himself hand-colors or antiques the enlarged picture, adding beauty, dimension and depth.
  • Showy but not slick, the work has a new painterly depth and dimension that take it beyond the surface.
  • The most popular is selenium toner, which deepens the blacks and shadow areas of the print, adding depth and dimension.
2The quality of being intense or extreme: he was surprised by the depth of Eloise’s vindictiveness the government failed to understand the depth of the problems
More example sentences
  • His rare lyrical quality bears emotional depth without sickly sweetness, and sly humour without jokey or ironic irritants.
  • The guitar and bass gave the sound real mod attitude, while the backing vocals added as much soul as the keyboards offered depth and quality to the experience.
  • He chooses his roles, he says, based on the quality, depth and intelligence of the script.
2.1Complexity and profundity of thought: the book has unexpected depth
More example sentences
  • Given the importance of her topic and the crucial questions she raises, I wish her book had more depth and complexity.
  • We think that as leaders we are supposed to show gravitas: depth, profundity.
  • The complexity and depth of these scholars' individual accounts of the sultana have varied according to her relevance to their respective works.
profoundness, profundity, deepness, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, sagacity, discernment, perceptiveness, penetration, perspicuity, insight, awareness, intuition, astuteness, acumen, shrewdness, acuity;
learning, erudition, knowledgeability
rare sapience
complexity, intricacy, profoundness, profundity, gravity, seriousness, weight, importance, moment, solemnity
2.2Extensive and detailed study or knowledge: third-year courses typically go into more depth
More example sentences
  • Mike should be congratulated on his detailed research, and depth of knowledge and compelling style of presentation.
  • It is a lively, thriving collection of diverse women whose depth of knowledge and experience never fails to amaze me, but who are kind and supportive and above all very practical.
  • Members of any profession require wide knowledge and depth of experience the relevance of some of which might not have been obvious at the time of learning.
extent, range, scope, breadth, width, extensiveness, comprehensiveness;
compass, magnitude, scale, degree
3Intensity of colour: strong lighting will accentuate the depth of colour
More example sentences
  • ‘I use my oil colours like water colours, in diluted form, layer after layer to bring more depth to the colour,’ he says.
  • The uneven depth of colour, as in all these works, adds a flickering dimension to the work, form flexing in and out of light like a half-grasped memory.
  • This can usually be done by changing the colour depth to a ‘grayscale’ setting, or by setting the hue/colour saturation to zero.
intensity, richness, deepness, darkness, vividness, strength, brilliance
4 (the depths) A point far below the surface: he lifted the manhole cover and peered into the depths beneath
More example sentences
  • They cut the mast and sails loose and watched as it vanished into the depths below.
  • Another unique feature of sea power is that modern navies operate not only on the surface of the ocean, but in the depths below it and the air above it.
  • An endearing memory is surfacing from the depths to see Mike and Joe wearing their masks, facing each other separated by about three metres.
deepest part, remotest area, bottom, floor, bed, abyss, back, pit;
4.1A time considered to be the worst point within a bad period: 4 a.m. in the depths of winter
More example sentences
  • It was by no means unusual to see children going barefoot in the depths of winter and offering matches for sale with hands that looked like those of old men.
  • In the depths of night on Mars, however, fine particles quickly become cold as temperatures plunge after sundown.
  • People often though her proud but none of that showed as she huddled alone within the depths of darkness.
4.2A time when one’s negative feelings are at their most intense: she was in the depths of despair
More example sentences
  • Theo was in the depths of despair as it was ten years to the day that his beautiful wife died, somewhat mysteriously.
  • Little more than a year ago he was in the depths of despair, but yesterday he put it all behind him with a wonderful victory over his rival.
  • ‘We were promised Utopia and we are in the depths of despair,’ said one governor.
4.3A remote and inaccessible place: I wish I didn’t live in the depths of Devon
More example sentences
  • As Arthur and I venture into the depths of the region, a stunning backdrop and cloudless sky sets the scene for meeting the painter.
  • She took the four teenagers to live in the depths of Norfolk, with no communication from the outside world for three and a half weeks.
  • Here in the depths of the Wiltshire countryside it is hard to find experts capable of resolving this question.



hidden depths

Admirable but previously unnoticed qualities: his solo spots reveal hidden depths
More example sentences
  • Jane seems worthless to all who meet her, but we know she has hidden depths, evident in her otherworldly drawings.
  • David, as his book perhaps unwittingly demonstrates, is a man with no hidden depths.
  • It proves that the best TV comedies often have hidden depths.

in depth

Comprehensively and thoroughly: research students pursue a specific aspect of a subject in depth See also in-depth.
More example sentences
  • Clare's remarkable rise to fame has been the subject of in depth features all over the jazz press.
  • As regards quality of the qualification I don't think school is the best place to study a subject in depth.
  • Whilst studying ethics, one of the subjects we considered in depth was animal rights.
thoroughly, extensively, comprehensively, well, rigorously, exhaustively, completely, fully;
meticulously, scrupulously, assiduously, painstakingly, methodically

out of one's depth

In water too deep to stand in: just out of our depth, we bounce down below the surface of the water
More example sentences
  • Police are investigating whether he fell from a rope swing over the stream and banged his head and drowned or if he slipped into a deep pool and got out of his depth.
  • During the operation on Sunday, locals waded into sea and used ropes to haul the stranded whales back out of their depth, while others poured buckets of waters over the distressed mammals.
  • While a child, she nearly drowned in the Firth when she swam out of her depth and, exhausted, let the waters close over her.
3.1In a situation that is beyond one’s capabilities: they soon realized they were out of their depth in Division One I find it difficult to talk in a situation like this—I’m out of my depth
More example sentences
  • Needless to say, none are truly ready for the repercussions of their actions and quickly find themselves out of their depth and facing a situation of escalating violence.
  • Inexperienced nurses are often out of their depth when caring for a patient who has been transferred from intensive care.
  • Even though my plays are often about ideas, the characters don't say particularly intelligent things - they're people thinking out of their depth and grappling with concepts beyond their reach.


Late Middle English: from deep + -th2, on the pattern of pairs such as long, length.

  • deep from Old English:

    The word deep is related to dip (Old English) and dive (Old English), and in Old English could also mean depth (Late Middle English). The phrase in deep water, ‘in trouble or difficulty’, has biblical origins. The writer of one of the Psalms begged, ‘Let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters’. The deep waters of a swimming pool did not become familiar enough to provide linguistic inspiration until the 20th century. If you go off the deep end you have an emotional outburst, especially of anger, and to jump (or be thrown) in at the deep end is to face a difficult undertaking with little or no preparation or experience.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: depth

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.