Definition of polynya in US English:



  • A stretch of open water surrounded by ice, especially in Arctic seas.

    • ‘The length of the sea ice season can vary from a few days to year-round and generally decreases with distance from the continent, with the exception of coastal polynyas and the large and regular polynya off the Ross Ice Shelf.’
    • ‘Schledermann's pioneering work documenting the association between the location of present-day polynyas and 3000 years of human settlement in the High Arctic represented an important starting point.’
    • ‘Surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, some polynyas (open areas in frozen seas) remain open all year round.’
    • ‘The biological oases are open waters, called polynyas, where blooming plankton support the local food chain.’
    • ‘These forces move the ice to create open water, even in winter, in the form of linear cracks called leads and large areas of persistently open water called polynyas.’


Mid 19th century: from Russian, from the base of pole ‘field’.