[ puh-lin-yuh ]
/ pəˈlɪn yə /


an area of unfrozen sea water surrounded by ice.

Origin of polynya

1850–55; < Russian polyn'yá, Old Russian polynĭi equivalent to pol(ŭ) empty, open + -ynĭi noun suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for polynya

/ (ˈpɒlənˌjɑː) /


a stretch of open water surrounded by ice, esp near the mouths of large rivers, in arctic seas

Word Origin for polynya

C19: from Russian, from poly open, hollowed-out
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

Scientific definitions for polynya

[ pŏl′ən-yä, pə-lĭnyə ]

An area of open water surrounded by sea ice. A polynya can be formed by the presence of a heat source that keeps the area from freezing. A more complex process involves wind or ocean currents that carry ice away from the polynya, constantly exposing more ocean water to ice formation and resulting in the release of very salty, dense water that sinks to become part of a halocline.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.