Definition of abyss in US English:



  • 1A deep or seemingly bottomless chasm.

    ‘a rope led down into the dark abyss’
    • ‘With these technologies fisherman now have an unprecedented view of the ocean - enabling them to guide their nets around sea mountains, drop them into deep ocean abysses, and navigate almost every rock pile like an underwater video game.’
    • ‘The only thing that stands between us and the deep abyss of arbitrary executive power is the Rule of Law.’
    • ‘The companions walked in a huddled group as each of them kept looking over their shoulders and deep into the dark abyss, unable to close their eyes even for a second.’
    • ‘He figured that the deep abyss he was falling into must have a bottom.’
    • ‘Whine, and I'll toss you down the deepest abyss.’
    • ‘His attempts to conceal these secrets push him deeper into the very abyss.’
    • ‘Surely this pensive fairytale of metaphysical obsession reaches the deepest abysses of ecstasy and darkness.’
    • ‘In the chill of the Arctic and Antarctic, as in the chill of the deep abyss, the sperm whale is warmed by what whalers call ‘the blanket’, which is eight inches of blubber.’
    • ‘When he looks at you like that, you feel like you're standing at the verge of a bottomless abyss, a void so deep that it has its own mystical gravitation.’
    • ‘No bits of light or matter can climb out of these deep gravitational abysses.’
    • ‘And perhaps that new glow about the city is the lost sense of pride emerging from the deep abyss it fell into.’
    • ‘This section of the proposed bill is a triumph of xenophobia over moral, legal, and economic reason - they are going off the deep end into the abyss.’
    • ‘The ship turned sideways, with its right side overlooking the deep abyss at the center of the Maelstrom, slowly traveling in the water's currents.’
    • ‘Less than 30 seconds later, Maready was treading water as she watched the red beacon light of her tail rudder spiral deeper into the dark abyss.’
    • ‘Once I was passing along the side of a deep abyss that seemed to spiral down forever and a strong wind started to blow, as if it were trying to push me in.’
    • ‘Staring into the seemingly deep and empty abyss some imagine enormous sharks or the legendary giant squid.’
    • ‘To me, death was a mysterious, dark, horrible thing that would catch you and drag you down into a deep abyss, away from everything and everyone you loved.’
    • ‘We slipped into the clear, seemingly bottomless aquamarine abyss to snorkel.’
    • ‘It was a lonely walk, deep into an abyss that beckoned like a black hole, a fallen star.’
    • ‘But as soon as he did so, the world turned and he was swimming downwards, down, down into the deep, dark abyss.’
    chasm, gorge, ravine, canyon, fissure, rift, crevasse, gap, hole, gulf, pit, depth, cavity, void, bottomless pit
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    1. 1.1 A wide or profound difference between people; a gulf.
      ‘the abyss between the two nations’
      • ‘It sets these individuals on a separate plane, creating an unnatural abyss between the organizer and the people for whom one works.’
      • ‘The cultural abyss had grown too wide to be crossed using traditional methods.’
      • ‘This created the abyss between the real world and the supernal world.’
      • ‘There remains an abyss between man and God, but this abyss inspires wonder and praise.’
      • ‘Personally, there was a huge abyss between father and son.’
      • ‘These valuations have opened an abyss between person and person over which an Achilles of free thought could not leap, shutter how he may.’
      • ‘The result, when successful, is a welcome bridging of the sometimes yawning abyss between writer and critic.’
      • ‘There are 170 miles and an abyss of sectarianism separating Glasgow and Inverness.’
      • ‘Sideways will speak to anyone who has ever thought themselves a bit of a failure or gazed into the abyss between the mountain of their ambitions and the slag heap of their actual achievements.’
      • ‘These conditions create the possibility for a new political force to arise quickly and fill the abyss between the ruling regime and popular aspirations.’
      • ‘Admittedly, there is a huge abyss between thought and words.’
      • ‘There is, at first glance, an abyss between saying that one has had an experience of God and trusting that one can experience God in one's life.’
      • ‘Like Ignatieff, McEwan explores the abyss between middle-class lives shrouded in material comfort and the demands of sudden human suffering.’
      • ‘Although there is an abyss of difference between the means of the two campaigns, there are also a few notable similarities.’
      • ‘The abyss between the generic business and the tight, small world of the famous classified growths is vast.’
      • ‘The abyss of ethnographic otherness has been momentarily bridged.’
      • ‘And all the while people suffer, the abyss between rich and poor yawns, and exploitation continues as the bitterest fact of everyday life.’
      • ‘An abyss separates those who have served and sacrificed their blood for our freedom and those of us who have reaped the benefit.’
      • ‘There is an abyss between such rhetoric and the world we actually live in, an abyss called power.’
      • ‘In the late twentieth century, this schism would finally open into an abyss.’
      divergence, contrast, polarity, divide, division, separation, difference, wide area of difference
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    2. 1.2 The regions of hell conceived of as a bottomless pit.
      ‘Satan's dark abyss’
      • ‘The shop clerk, a gnarled old woman with teeth blacker than the abysses of Hell, wheezed.’
      • ‘The trees outside camp appeared as dark pillars gating a primeval hell, where behind lay only an abyss, hiding the forms of carrion crying from its depths to break the stillness.’
      • ‘Let a people abruptly thrown in the abysses of hell maintain the suspense for a fortnight or two, so that it can exercise its sovereign power with sovereignty!’
      • ‘Ruler of the abyss between hell and earth with his consort Night.’
      • ‘This manuscript was conceived while I sat on a ledge overlooking the abyss of hell.’
      • ‘The gates of hell will crack open and demons will rise from the abyss to terrorize mortal men.’
      • ‘The abyss: Dante's hell is formed in the shape of an inverted cone whose point is at the center of the earth, which is the furthest place from God who is in the heavens.’
    3. 1.3the abyss A catastrophic situation seen as likely to occur.
      ‘teetering on the edge of the abyss of a total political wipeout’
      • ‘‘We're on the edge of the abyss,’ said Dr Strabismus of the Council of Europe.’
      • ‘Suddenly I felt like I was at the edge of the abyss again, with nothing preventing me from falling and falling.’
      • ‘A rare sight in the streets of Monrovia, Liberians know only too well they've miraculously been pulled back from the edge of the abyss.’
      • ‘It is this crave for instant gratification, since decades ago, that ‘has taken the nation into the abyss of crisis’.’
      • ‘That his songwriting, as quirky and original as it is here, is increasingly reliant on cliches is just one more clue that he man's about three steps beyond the edge of the abyss.’
      • ‘The US dollar index is poised at the edge of the abyss; with the amount of bearish babbling in the US and other press, the odds of a good bounce are increasing all the time.’
      • ‘While Tralee has the habit of going to the edge of the abyss and then pulling back dramatically, financially-troubled projects in the town are giving the area a very negative image.’
      • ‘It has brought us again to the edge of the abyss - the possibility of a return of stagflation.’
      • ‘What are the possibilities and risks of according spirituality some therapeutic value for those on the edge of the abyss of self-destruction?’
      • ‘He succeeds in part here, but there's the sense that he could have gone closer to the edge of the abyss, to show what it is really like to take the Road To Perdition.’
      • ‘The presence of gold and silver in your portfolio will insure that you will emerge from the abyss with your capital intact.’
      • ‘I may enjoy dancing on the edge of the abyss, but I will never ever topple in, comprendi?’
      • ‘If you continue this balancing at the edge of the abyss long enough you become very very adept: no matter which way you are pushed you always right yourself.’
      • ‘And it felt as if leukaemia was nudging me towards the edge of the abyss.’
      • ‘Connolly drags you screaming to the edge of the abyss, then calmly pushes you in.’
      • ‘All this in the face of a decline in both profits and prestige in investment banking - one thinks of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his cronies dancing on the edge of the abyss.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘infernal pit’): via late Latin from Greek abussos ‘bottomless’, from a- ‘without’ + bussos ‘depth’.