mediterranean sea



PIE word
A satellite image of the Baltic Sea, which is a mediterranean sea.

The word mediterranean is from Latin mediterrāneus (inland, remote from the coast) + English -an (suffix forming adjectives with the sense ‘of or pertaining to’). Mediterrāneus is derived from medius (middle) + terra (dry land, ground), modelled after Ancient Greek μεσόγαιος (mesógaios, located in the midst of land). The English word is cognate with Middle French méditerranéen (modern French méditerranéen), Italian mediterraneo, Spanish mediterráneo.[1]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˌmɛ.dɪ.təˈɹeɪ.nɪ.ən ˈsiː/
  • (file)
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˌmɛ.də.təˈɹeɪ.ni.ən ˈsi/, /ˌmɛ.də.təˈɹeɪ.njən ˈsi/
  • Hyphenation: me‧di‧ter‧ra‧nean sea


mediterranean sea (plural mediterranean seas)

  1. (oceanography) A mostly enclosed sea that has limited exchange of deep water with outer oceans, and where the water circulation is dominated by salinity and temperature differences rather than winds.
    • 1604, Joseph Acosta [i.e., José de Acosta], “Of the Ocean that Invirons the Indies, and of the North and South Seas”, in E[dward] G[rimeston], transl., The Naturall and Morall Historie of the East and West Indies. [], London: Printed by Val[entine] Sims for Edward Blount and William Aspley, OCLC 228712803, 3rd book; quoted in [Samuel] Purchas, “Obseruations Gathered out of the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Bookes of Iosephvs Acosta, [] Touching the Naturall Historie of the Heauens, Ayre, Water, and Earth at the West Indies. []”, in Pvrchas His Pilgrimes. [], 3rd part, London: Printed by William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone, [], 1625, OCLC 960103045, § II, page 928:
      To this day they haue not diſouered at the Indies any Mediterranean Sea, as in Europe, Aſia, and Affrica, into the which there enters ſome arme of this great Sea, and makes diſtinct Seas, taking their names from the Prouinces they waſh: and almoſt all of the Mediterranean Seas continue and ioyne together, and with the Ocean it ſelfe, by the ſtraight of Gibraltar, which the Ancients called, the Pillers of Hercules, [...]
    • 1733, Philip Miller, “SUN”, in The Gardeners Dictionary: [], 2nd edition, London: [] C[harles] Rivington, [], OCLC 429215710, column 1:
      This will account for the Caſpian Sea being always at a Stand, and neither waſting or overflowing; and alſo for the Current ſaid to ſet always in at the Streights of Gibraltar, notwithſtanding that thoſe Mediterranean ſeas receive ſo many, and ſo conſiderable Rivers.
    • 1856, George Louis Le Clerc [i.e., Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon], “Article XI. Of Seas and Lakes.”, in William Smellie, transl., A Natural History, General and Particular; [] Translated from the French [], volume I, new edition, London: Thomas Kelly, [], OCLC 637030636, page 75:
      [I]t [the German Sea or North Sea] enlarges more and more, and forms the Baltic, which is a mediterranean sea, extending, from south to north, near 300 leagues, if the Gulf of Bothnia, which is a continuation of it, be comprehended.
    • 1870, Keith Johnston, Jun., “Explanatory Diagrams. Geographical Terms and Contour Lines. Map 1.”, in Hand Book of Physical Geography (Middle Class Series), Edinburgh; London: W. & A. K. Johnston, OCLC 39696762, page 13:
      A strait is the narrow part of the sea which separates two continents or islands, or an island from the mainland, or forms the opening into a mediterranean sea; [...] The islands of the land correspond to the inland seas, the peninsulas to the mediterranean seas and gulfs, the promontories of the land to the bays, and the straits joining the mediterranean seas to the oceans, to the isthmuses which connect the peninsulas to the mainland.
    • 1942, Nicholas J[ohn] Spykman, “The United States in the Western Hemisphere”, in America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power, New York, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace & Co., OCLC 1079083255; republished New Brunswick, N.J.; London: Transaction Publishers, 2007 (2008 printing), →ISBN, page 49:
      A similar situation is observable in regard to the other mediterranean seas. North Africa has been more intimately related to Europe than with the equatorial belt beyond the Sahara and Northern Australia is closer to Singapore than to Melbourne which lies on the other side of the broad Australian desert.
    • 2018, Emil Vespremeanu; Mariana Golumbeanu, “Introduction”, in The Black Sea: Physical, Environmental and Historical Perspectives, Cham, Switzerland: Springer Geography, Springer Nature, DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-70855-3, →ISBN, ISSN 2194-315X, section 1.1 (Geographical Location of the Black Sea), page 2:
      The Mediterranean seas are basins with sizes smaller than oceans, extended between the continents, separated from the adjacent ocean by means of one or several straits, with the bottom developed on a continental crust and on ocean crust, with local surface circulation, with modest interactions between sea and atmosphere. According to their size, there are large Mediterranean seas (Mediterranean Sea, American Mediterranean, Australasian Mediterranean Sea) and small Mediterranean seas (Baltic Sea, Red Sea).

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