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  1. of or relating to glaciers or ice sheets.
  2. resulting from or associated with the action of ice or glaciers: glacial terrain.
  3. characterized by the presence of ice in extensive masses or glaciers.
  4. bitterly cold; icy: a glacial winter wind.
  5. happening or moving extremely slowly: The work proceeded at a glacial pace.
  6. icily unsympathetic or immovable: a glacial stare; glacial indifference.
  7. Chemistry. of, relating to, or tending to develop into icelike crystals: glacial phosphoric acid.
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Origin of glacial

1650–60; < Latin glaciālis icy, equivalent to glaci(ēs) ice + -ālis -al1
Related formsgla·cial·ly, adverbnon·gla·cial, adjectivenon·gla·cial·ly, adverbun·gla·cial, adjectiveun·gla·cial·ly, adverb

Synonyms for glacial

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for glacial

polar, frozen, freezing, icy, frigid, frosty, arctic, biting, bitter, chill, chilly, cool, gelid, nippy, piercing, raw, wintry, antarctic, aloof, antagonistic

Examples from the Web for glacial

Contemporary Examples of glacial

Historical Examples of glacial

  • Perhaps the Glacial period which followed was too cold for them.

    The Meaning of Evolution

    Samuel Christian Schmucker

  • He rose as Roma entered, and received her with his great but glacial politeness.

  • "I had no idea you were with Miss Gray, Robin," she heard the lady say in glacial accents.

    Mary Gray

    Katharine Tynan

  • Even with that, his solitude was glacial, and reacted on his character.

  • If the glacial period were uniformity, what was catastrophe?

British Dictionary definitions for glacial


  1. characterized by the presence of masses of ice
  2. relating to, caused by, or deposited by a glacier
  3. extremely cold; icy
  4. cold or hostile in mannera glacial look
  5. (of a chemical compound) of or tending to form crystals that resemble iceglacial acetic acid
  6. very slow in progressa glacial pace
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Derived Formsglacially, adverb
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 glacial


1650s, "cold, icy," from French glacial, from Latin glacialis "icy, frozen, full of ice," from glacies "ice," probably from PIE root *gel- "cold" (cf. Latin gelu "frost;" see cold (adj.)). Geological sense apparently coined in 1846 by British naturalist Edward Forbes (1815-1854). Related: Glacially.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

glacial in Science


  1. Relating to or derived from a glacier.
  2. Characterized or dominated by the existence of glaciers, as the Pleistocene Epoch.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.