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1. a transatlantic flight or journey involves crossing the Atlantic Ocean

2. between countries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean

Origin and usage

The adjective transatlantic is formed from the prefix trans-, meaning ‘across’, and ‘Atlantic’, the name of the second largest of the world’s oceans. It was first used in the late 18th century and is only used before a noun: you can’t say ‘the journey was transatlantic’.


Transatlantic is most often used to refer either to journeys across the Atlantic or to relationships that involve both sides of the Atlantic. While the first meaning tends to involve words like ‘voyage’, ‘flight’, ‘crossing’,  ‘liner’ and ‘airliner’, frequent collocates of the second meaning include ‘relations’, ‘relationship’ and ‘cooperation’, particularly in reference to connections between the UK and the US.

Transatlantic crossings have a long history, but only became relatively easy and safe with the advent of steamships. The fastest crossing by a transatlantic liner dates back to 1952, when the American liner United States made the eastbound crossing in three days, ten hours and 40 minutes. The first aeroplane to cross the Atlantic non-stop was piloted by two British aviators, Alcock and Brown, in 1919. They flew from St. John’s, Newfoundland to County Galway in Ireland in just under 16 hours.


“With the highly profitable American colonies waiting to be exploited, this was just the time for investors to be sinking their money into transatlantic transportation that wasn’t sinking.”

(James Burke)

“[It is] good enough for our transatlantic friends … but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.”

(A British Parliamentary Committee on Thomas Edison’s lightbulb , 1880.)

Related words

1. transcontinental

2. Anglo-American

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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