Printable Version
Pronunciation: têr-res-tri-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Earthy; related to earth (dirt), dry land. 2. Earthly; of, on, or otherwise pertaining to planet Earth.

Notes: This word may be used as a noun meaning "earthling, inhabitant of Earth" which paved the way for extraterrestrial "outside Earth", the title of the 1982 Steven Spielberg movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial". The adverb is terrestrially and the abstract noun is terrestriality.

In Play: Although dictionaries often characterize today's word as meaning "dry land", the land doesn't have to be absolutely dry: "Transient flooding is a worldwide phenomenon in floodplains, wetlands, and in other terrestrial ecosystems." This word began its life as the antonym of celestial: "Sue Preem thinks of herself as more celestial than terrestrial."

Word History: English borrowed this word from Latin terrestris "earthly, on land" and added -al, an adjective suffix. Terrestris is the adjective for terra "earth", inherited from PIE ters-/tors- "dry", the origin of English thirst and German Durst "thirst", too. English uses the original Latin word terra in the phrase terra firma "solid earth". Latin also used the O-form of the PIE word in torrere "to parch", which went into the making of torridus "scorching hot". French whittled it down to torride, whereupon English copied it as torrid. We see it in mediterranean "surrounded by land" and subterranean "underground". The frequentative of Latin torrere was tostare, which Old French converted to toster "to toast" with its noun tost. English borrowed this word, inserting an A, toast, perhaps influenced by roast. (We now thank terrestrial Alfie Jordan for suggesting such a great Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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