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[gley-shuh l] /ˈgleɪ ʃəl/
of or relating to glaciers or ice sheets.
resulting from or associated with the action of ice or glaciers:
glacial terrain.
characterized by the presence of ice in extensive masses or glaciers.
bitterly cold; icy:
a glacial winter wind.
happening or moving extremely slowly:
The work proceeded at a glacial pace.
icily unsympathetic or immovable:
a glacial stare; glacial indifference.
Chemistry. of, relating to, or tending to develop into icelike crystals:
glacial phosphoric acid.
Origin of glacial
1650-60; < Latin glaciālis icy, equivalent to glaci(ēs) ice + -ālis -al1
Related forms
glacially, adverb
nonglacial, adjective
nonglacially, adverb
unglacial, adjective
unglacially, adverb
4. chill, freezing, frigid, wintry. 6. forbidding, unfriendly, hostile. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for glacial
  • The temperature of the world fluctuated widely, and there were long periods of glacial cold.
  • Now my heart seems to be racing in my head, but my blood is glacial, cold and slow.
  • Then he had entered gaily the door of the glacial epoch, and had surveyed a universe of unities and uniformities.
  • Even with that, his solitude was glacial, and reacted on his character.
  • University administration and bureaucracy moves about the speed of glacial creep.
  • In addition, operational changes to ensure effectiveness and efficiency occur at glacial speed.
  • glacial lakes and spring waters throughout make for interesting water sports opportunities.
  • Although the nerves can regenerate, they do it at the glacial pace of about one millimeter a day.
  • Perhaps the strategy is to provide enough long-term life-support to allow such tiny, always reversible, glacial steps to proceed.
  • The glacial pace of improvement in battery technology really can't be overemphasized.
British Dictionary definitions for glacial


/ˈɡleɪsɪəl; -ʃəl/
characterized by the presence of masses of ice
relating to, caused by, or deposited by a glacier
extremely cold; icy
cold or hostile in manner: a glacial look
(of a chemical compound) of or tending to form crystals that resemble ice: glacial acetic acid
very slow in progress: a glacial pace
Derived Forms
glacially, adverb
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
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Word Origin and History for glacial

1650s, "cold, icy," from French glacial, from Latin glacialis "icy, frozen, full of ice," from glacies "ice," probably from PIE root *gel- "cold" (cf. Latin gelu "frost;" see cold (adj.)). Geological sense apparently coined in 1846 by British naturalist Edward Forbes (1815-1854). Related: Glacially.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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glacial in Science
  1. Relating to or derived from a glacier.

  2. Characterized or dominated by the existence of glaciers, as the Pleistocene Epoch.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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