Definition of gorgonian in US English:



  • A colonial coral of an order distinguished by having a horny treelike skeleton, including the sea fans and precious red coral.

    Order Gorgonacea, class Anthozoa

    • ‘Soft corals and gorgonians reach out from the overhanging sides, while shoals of fish swirl in the shade.’
    • ‘Scrubby bushes of black coral and huge gorgonians reach out towards the sky.’
    • ‘I descended a little way off the reef and saw a dazzling concentration of corals, every millimetre covered in table, brain, encrusting and staghorn corals and draped in whip corals and gorgonians.’
    • ‘So I used the last dive of the day to shoot several reef scenes of crinoids sitting among soft corals and gorgonians, and a pair of yellow ghost pipefish.’
    • ‘There are many small creatures to photograph among the soft corals, gorgonians, hard corals and sponges.’


  • Relating to gorgons or gorgonians.

    • ‘Giant gorgonian fans, enormous corals and exaggerated sponges decorated the wall.’
    • ‘On the north west slope of Chevalier Rock is an enormous field of gorgonian seafans in varying shades of orange, all regimentally standing in rows perpendicular to the wall.’
    • ‘The coral and sponge growth was again lush, but with far healthier gorgonian colonies away from the sometimes violent swells of Diamond Rock.’
    • ‘Several ‘fingers' of rock, each densely covered in gorgonian fans, projected out into the blue.’
    • ‘This dive is better in the deeper section, where large gorgonian seafans stretch out into the current, surrounded by large numbers of fish, corals, invertebrates, and some huge barrel sponges.’


Mid 19th century: from modern Latin Gorgonia, from Latin Gorgo (see Gorgon), with reference to its petrifaction, + -an.