an area of unfrozen sea water surrounded by ice.

1850–55; < Russian polyn'yá, Old Russian polynĭi equivalent to pol(ŭ) empty, open + -ynĭi noun suffix

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World English Dictionary
polynya (ˈpɒlənˌjɑː)
a stretch of open water surrounded by ice, esp near the mouths of large rivers, in arctic seas
[C19: from Russian, from poly open, hollowed-out]

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Science Dictionary
polynya   (pŏl'ən-yä', pə-lĭn'yə)  Pronunciation Key 
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.
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