General English

General Science

  • noun a mass of ice moving slowly across land, like a frozen river
  • noun a large amount of stationary ice covering land in the Arctic regions


  • noun a large mass of ice in arctic or mountainous regions, which moves slowly downhill

Origin & History of “glacier”

Latin glaciēs meant ‘ice’ (it probably came from Indo-European *gel- ‘cold’, which also produced English cold and Latin gelidus ‘cold’). Its vulgar Latin descendant was *glacia, which passed into French as glace (whence English glacé ‘iced, crystallized’ (19th c.)). A derivative glacière was used in French-speaking areas of the Alps for a ‘moving mass of ice’. It later became glacier, the form in which English borrowed it.

Glacial (17th c.) comes from the Latin derivative glaciālis.