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See also: Abyss.


Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English abissus, from Late Latin abyssus (a bottomless gulf), from Ancient Greek ἄβυσσος (ábussos, bottomless), from ἀ- (a-, not) + βυσσός (bussós, deep place),[1][2] from βυθός (buthós, deep place).[3]



abyss (plural abysses)

  1. Hell; the bottomless pit; primeval chaos; a confined subterranean ocean. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.][1]
  2. (frequently figuratively) A bottomless or unfathomed depth, gulf, or chasm; hence, any deep, immeasurable; any void space. [First attested in the late 16th century.][1]
  3. Anything infinite, immeasurable, or profound. [First attested in the late 16th century.][1]
  4. Moral depravity; vast intellectual or moral depth.
  5. An impending catastrophic happening.
  6. (heraldry) The center of an escutcheon.
  7. (oceanography) The abyssal zone.
  8. (figuratively) A difference, especially a large difference, between groups.

Usage notes[edit]

  • (impending catastrophic happening): It is typically preceded by the word the.



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 “abyss” in Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2002, →ISBN, page 11.
  2. ^ “abyss” in William Morris, editor, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New York, N.Y.: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1971 [1969], →OCLC, page 6.
  3. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], →ISBN), page 9