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[soh-nahr] /ˈsoʊ nɑr/
a method for detecting and locating objects submerged in water by echolocation.
the apparatus used in sonar.
Also called, British, asdic.
Origin of sonar
1940-45; so(und) na(vigation) r(anging) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sonar
  • It features odd-ball technology in the form of a sonar suspension.
  • Compared with a conventional fish-finding sonar it is a miracle, with a scanning rate that runs a million times faster.
  • The bat uses these reflected signals for orientation and as part of its sonar system to detect food.
  • Ship traffic, seismic tests and sonar pings can make navigating the seas tricky for whales.
  • Navy engineers aren't the only ones who can jam sonar.
  • The department regularly checks all its mains with sonar to detect the sound of uncontrolled leaks.
  • He notes that echolocation, their sophisticated sonar system, allows bats to dodge wires as fine as human hairs-in the dark.
  • When it comes to mapping the ocean floor, lasers can capture fine details even better than the sonar.
  • sonar might be causing severe decompression sickness in whales and dolphins.
  • Video and sonar data from the submarine are displayed as a volleyball-sized hologram.
British Dictionary definitions for sonar


a communication and position-finding device used in underwater navigation and target detection using echolocation
Word Origin
C20: from so(und) na(vigation and) r(anging)
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 sonar

apparatus for detection underwater, 1946, from first letters of "sound navigation ranging," on pattern of radar.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sonar in Science

  1. Short for sound navigation and ranging. A method of detecting, locating, and determining the speed of objects through the use of reflected sound waves. A sound signal is produced, and the time it takes for the signal to reach an object and for its echo to return is used to calculate the object's distance. The Doppler effect can also be used to determine the object's relative velocity. Electronic sonar systems are used for submarine navigation and for detecting schools of fish. Some mammals, especially bats, use biological sonar to navigate and detect prey in dark conditions, commonly called echolocation.

  2. The equipment or physiology used in doing this. See also Doppler effect, lidar, radar.

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


sound navigation and ranging
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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