Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. one of the large areas of salt water that cover most of the Earth

2.  a very large amount of something

3. the ocean: a large area of salt water that lies along the coast of a country

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The word ocean was first used in Middle English in the late 13th century. It came from an Old French word ‘occean’, which came  from the Greek ‘ōkeanos’ via Latin. The literal meaning of the Greek word refers to the idea held in the ancient world that the earth consisted of a single land mass with a great river flowing around it.


Saturday 8 June was World Oceans Day, a UN-recognized day coordinated by The Ocean Project. The purpose of the day, which has been celebrated since 2008, is to honour, help protect and conserve the world’s oceans. This task has become more urgent with growing awareness both of the fundamental importance of the oceans to the health of the planet and the problems caused by pollution, especially plastic pollution. The day was marked by beach clean-ups in many places, as well as numerous other events. In addition to occurring in the names of major areas of salt water around the globe, such as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, ‘the ocean’ is also used more generally, especially in American English, to refer to any large area of salt water adjoining the coast. The usual British English term for this is ‘the sea’. In informal use, an ocean or oceans of something is a very large amount of it. You can also refer to a very small amount of something as ‘a drop in the ocean‘.


“If you think the ocean isn’t important, imagine Earth without it. Mars comes to mind. No ocean, no life support system.”
(Sylvia Earle)

“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
(Isaac Newton)

Related words

the deep, the briny, the waves, the sea

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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