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From Latin aetherius (of or pertaining to the ether, the sky, or the air or upper air), from Ancient Greek αἰθέριος (aithérios, of or pertaining to the upper air). By surface analysis, ether +‎ -ial.



ethereal (comparative more ethereal, superlative most ethereal)

  1. Pertaining to the presupposition of an invisible air-like element permeating all of space, or to the higher regions beyond the earth or beyond the atmosphere.
    Synonyms: aereous, celestial, spiritual
    ethereal space
    ethereal regions
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VIII”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 1282–1284:
      Since to part, / Go heavenly Gueſt, Ethereal Meſſenger, / Sent from whoſe ſovran goodneſs I adore.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, pages 25–26:
      The fanciful fables of fairy land are but allegories of the young poet's mind when the sweet spell is upon him. Some slight thing calls up the visionary world, and all the outward and actual is for the time forgotten. It is a fever ethereal and lovely; but, like all other fevers, leaving behind weakness and exhaustion.
    • 1862, Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”, in The Atlantic Monthly[1], volume 9, number 56:
      I trust that we shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts will be clearer, fresher, and more ethereal, as our sky, []
    • 1885, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Man From Archangel[2]:
      She was very young—at the most nineteen, with a pale somewhat refined face, yellow hair, merry blue eyes, and shining teeth. Her beauty was of an ethereal type.
    • 1893–1897 (date written), Robert Louis Stevenson, “A Tale of a Lion Rampant”, in St. Ives: Being the Adventures of a French Prisoner in England, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, published 1897, →OCLC, page 6:
      Our visitors, upon the whole, were not much to boast of; and yet, sitting in a corner and very much ashamed of myself and my absurd appearance, I have again and again tasted the finest, the rarest, and the most ethereal pleasures in a glance of an eye that I should never see again—and never wanted to.
  2. Pertaining to the immaterial realm, as symbolically represented by, or (in earlier epochs) conflated with, such atmospheric and extra-atmospheric concepts.
    Synonyms: incorporeal, insubstantial, intangible, spiritual, uncorporeal, mystical, otherworldly, transcendental; see also Thesaurus:cosmic
    Antonyms: corporeal, corporal
  3. Consisting of ether; hence, exceedingly light or airy; tenuous; spiritlike; characterized by extreme delicacy, as form, manner, thought, etc.
    Synonyms: ethereous, delicate, light; see also Thesaurus:gaseous, Thesaurus:insubstantial, Thesaurus:subtle

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ethereal (uncountable)

  1. Short for ethereal wave (music genre).

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