I would like to talk about everything that does not live in a sea or in an ocean. The first adjective that came to my mind was "terrestrial". However, I was told that "terrestrial" can be understood as the opposite of "aquatic" or "limnic", and I would like to include lakes and rivers.

Is there a less ambiguous word ? I've searched on the Web and I've found other candidates, like "continental" and "mainland", but those seem to exclude islands from the definition (and I would like to include the islands).

Note that it is unimportant if lagoons and estuaries are included or not.

EDIT : I need to find a title for a project related to biodiversity. I need to distinguish from a marine biodiversity project, but it can overlap on coastal areas.

  • "Land animals" is a term that distinguishes animals that live on land as opposed to water, and we can certainly use "aquatic animals/creatures" for those live in water, but to ignore seas or oceans I can only think of "freshwater animals" (vs. "saltwater") to exclude seas and oceans. Using a combination of "freshwater animals and land animals" helps us, but is by no means a perfect solution.
    – JMB
    Mar 23, 2015 at 22:09
  • @JMB Thank you for your comment. Is there a single word to group land and freshwater ? Also I don't want to be specific to animals but the term need to be used with any living species.
    – radouxju
    Mar 24, 2015 at 12:52
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    It might be helpful to include an example of the type of sentences you are trying to write. Sometimes a context can help us think of words we might have missed when just thinking about the definition.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 26, 2015 at 16:55
  • @radouxju Try looking at scientific papers on Google Scholar. You might find confirmation that inland or non-marine (ColleenV's answer) is right, or you might find another word that biologists use for exactly the meaning you're after.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 26, 2015 at 16:56
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    @BenKovitz's suggestion also made me think that you might want to talk about the specific biome of the area - Europe is classified (in general) as a "Temperate Deciduous Forest" biome. After you've stated which biome and region you're writing about, you can say things like "animals in this biome have a fondness for brioche" without having to describe the animals each time you refer to them.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 26, 2015 at 17:01

3 Answers 3


There is no single word for a biome that includes all land types and fresh water. Usually biomes are grouped as terrestrial and aquatic, with aquatic being sub-divided into marine and freshwater. The easiest way to refer to terrestrial and freshwater aquatic biomes in my opinion would be to say "non-marine" . For example, Earth’s earliest non-marine eukaryotes.

I guess non-marine could be considered a single word, so maybe I just contradicted myself...

If you are primarily making the distinction between coastal areas and interior areas, and not necessarily by biome, inland would work even for islands. In some contexts, inland means away from the political borders and I think that it will be clear that you're talking about geographic borders depending on the topic of your article.

  • +1 for the suggestion and the link. I'll keep looking for another word because non-marine sounds a bit "exclusive", but I might end up using this. What do you think of "inland" suggested benKovitz ?
    – radouxju
    Mar 26, 2015 at 20:16
  • @radouxju Inland will work even if you are talking about islands. It means most commonly "away from the coast or border".
    – ColleenV
    Mar 26, 2015 at 20:27

Terrestrial is not the word you are looking for.

Terrestrial either refers to something that lives anywhere on Earth, as opposed to other planets (both in and out of the water), OR something that lives or grows on land, as opposed to water.

The first definition is too broad (includes both oceans as well as lakes), and the second definition rules out any form of water.

If you are talking about the habitat of a deer, they are terrestrial, even though they may sometimes walk through a stream. Fresh water fish, however, are not terrestrial.

Unfortunately, I can't think of a word that describes what you want.

  • Thank you for the information. What do you think of my other ideas ?
    – radouxju
    Mar 24, 2015 at 12:51
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    "Continental" and "mainland" are both probably worse than "terrestrial". If you were talking about the United States, both of those words exclude Hawaii and Alaska. (Alaska is seperated from the rest of America by Canada, so even though it's not an island, it is outside of the mainland, and is not part of the continental United States).
    – Keiki
    Mar 24, 2015 at 13:21
  • Ok, I'll look for something else. I am talking about Europe, so there are several islands (Great Britain, Iceland, Crete...) too. I was also thinking about "inland" because, if their are no other word, I prefer to exclude the coast that the islands.
    – radouxju
    Mar 24, 2015 at 14:49

Terrestrial means of Earth, which includes rivers. It contains the prefix terra-, which means 'Earth'. Compare this word to celestial, which means of space (cele- meaning 'heaven').

So whilst I can understand what you mean, it's not the best term to use. Instead, you can say dry land, for example:

Dry land animals have lungs instead of gills.

If I read the term dry land mammals, I wouldn't consider amphibians (animals that can breath in both water and air, such as frogs) to be included in the definition. That may or may not be what you want.

If you did want to include amphibians, you could use the term "non-aquatic animals". That includes everything that lives exclusively in water.

If you wanted to include every animal except those that live in the oceans, you could say "non-oceanic animals".

  • One sense of terrestrial means "of the Earth (as opposed to other planets)". Another sense of terrestrial means "of land (as opposed to water)"; in the right contexts, this sense can be clear. For more senses, see here.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 26, 2015 at 16:56
  • thank you for the precision about the meanings of "terrestrial". However, I think that I need to clarify my question because I want to include both dry land and freshwater animals in my definition (therefore including freshwater fishes and amphibians)
    – radouxju
    Mar 31, 2015 at 12:00

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