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  1. moving, directed, or situated toward the west: the westerly end of the field.
  2. (especially of a wind) coming from the west: a westerly gale.
  1. toward the west: to escape westerly.
  2. from the west: a sharp wind blowing westerly.
noun, plural west·er·lies.
  1. a wind that blows from the west: an occasional westerly that pommeled the island.
  2. westerlies, (used with a plural verb) any semipermanent belt of westerly winds, especially those that prevail at latitudes lying between the tropical and polar regions of the earth.

Origin of westerly

1570–80; west + -erly, as in easterly
Related formswest·er·li·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for westerlies

Historical Examples

  • The “westerlies” meet “easterlies” from the polar highs at about 50-60° N. and S.


    A. S. Walker

  • Their rainfall regime is alternately that of the westerlies and of the trades.

  • Surface winds known as “westerlies” flow from the Horse Latitudes toward the poles.


    A. S. Walker

  • There came a burst of afternoon westerlies which blew small hurricanes from noon to sundown.

    Poor Man's Rock

    Bertrand W. Sinclair

  • On the polar margins of the trade-wind zone lie the sub-tropical belts, of alternating trades and westerlies.

British Dictionary definitions for westerlies


pl n
  1. meteorol the prevailing winds blowing from the west on the poleward sides of the horse latitudes, often bringing depressions and anticyclones


  1. of, relating to, or situated in the west
adverb, adjective
  1. towards or in the direction of the west
  2. (esp of the wind) from the west
noun plural -lies
  1. a wind blowing from the west
Derived Formswesterliness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for westerlies


prevailing winds in certain latitudes, 1876, from westerly (see west).



late 15c., "in a westerly direction; facing toward the west," from Middle English wester (adj.) "western" (mid-14c.), from Old English westra, variant of westerne (see western) + -ly (2). Cf. Old Norse (adv.). Middle English also had a verb wester "to go west." Related: Westerlies (n.). Somewhat contradictory sense of "coming from the west" attested by 1570s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

westerlies in Science


  1. A wind, especially a prevailing wind, that blows from the west. The prevailing winds in the middle latitudes are westerlies. See illustration at wind.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

westerlies in Culture


The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.