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Example:

They sat on the lower part of the beach, [...] in the sand.

The word buried would imply they are completely or almost completely beneath the sand. Is there a word to show they are just partially (e.g. only their buttocks) immersed in the sand?

3
  • 1
    This question is funny to me because it seems akin to: The man lay sprawled on the ground [...]. The word dead would imply that his life had ended. Is there a word to show that his life had only partially ended (e.g., his knee was scraped up)?
    – Jim
    Nov 18, 2014 at 4:06
  • 3
    partially buried is the best option IMO! Nov 18, 2014 at 6:22
  • 1
    buried up to their [extremity]
    – Mazura
    Nov 18, 2014 at 8:31

11 Answers 11

11

Settle

To cause to sink, become compact, or come to rest; to move downward; sink or descend, especially gradually. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)

They can also nestle into the sand. Nestle implies partially obscuring, or settling into (similar to) a nest.

Ensconced:

To settle (oneself) securely or comfortably. (AHDEL)

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  • 1
    Nestled also has the right feel, I think, like the definition given here of ensconced, without making the reader wonder where you pulled that word from. One might even go with "comfortably nestled into" the sand.
    – msouth
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:31
14

When it comes to partial burial, there can be no more obvious Germanic choice than half-buried, with learnèd Latinate alternatives semi-interred, semi-inhumed, and semi-intumulated available for those faint not of heart nor pen.

All would be grave terms indeed, especially the Latinate ones, and at risk for tenebrous overtones anywhere this side of the lich-gate — and surety of such on its far side.

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  • I had to look up lich, is it only used in fantasy fiction?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2014 at 6:35
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA No, and I did not mean it in the fantasy-fiction sense. A lich is simply a corpse. So the lich-gate is (per the OED) “The roofed gateway to a churchyard under which the corpse is set down, to await the clergyman’s arrival.” There are lots of lich-XXX compounds, where XXX includes house, path, yard, and stone — plus many others. A lichyard is of course a graveyard. It is an old and venerable word to be sure, and is “archaic” when used outside of its compounds. It was a common word in Old English, and appears several times in Beowulf. It is still normal in Dutch.
    – tchrist
    Nov 18, 2014 at 6:43
  • That's probably going to be the most interesting piece of information I'm going to read all day. That was nice, thanks!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2014 at 6:50
  • 4
    @Mari-LouA It is also one of two English descendants of the Common Germanic noun, *līko- ‘form, shape, appearance, body’, whose other descendant is like, originally meaning ‘likeness, shape [of]’. This latter is in turn what underlies the (originally adjectival, now mostly adverbial) suffix -ly in English (-lich in German, -lijk in Dutch, etc.) in a form reduced by its unstressed position—compare cases where it’s been attached as a whole word more recently, such as childlike (which was actually childly earlier on, but then got ‘reinvented’). Nov 18, 2014 at 17:25
  • 4
    You've certainly laid this one half to rest.
    – msouth
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:32
8

Sunk, the past participle of sink.

From Macmillan

  1. move to lower level
  2. fall/sit/lie down

For example

They sat on the lower part of the beach, sunk in the sand.

7

It's not technical, but 'planted' in the sand is the visual I get from your description.

5

They sat on the lower part of the beach, their bottoms wedged in the sand.
They sat on the lower part of the beach, their bottoms stuck in the sand

You can omit their bottoms and it would still make sense, but it would be less amusing.

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  • "their bottoms firmly in the grips of sand-wedgies"
    – msouth
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:26
4

In general the best way to say "partially buried" is "partially buried".

For your example sentence though, I think this is a good idiomatic way of saying it:

They sat on the lower part of the beach, butts in the sand.

"Lower part" isn't really very natural though... do you mean right next to the water?

3

'Settled' implies resting comfortably on the sand or 'partially covered' suggests the sand comes somewhat higher without entombing them.

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  • Can you make a kind of distinction from the answer already given? Nov 18, 2014 at 3:36
2

Below are several options; multiple options are provided because you can use them to search for more synonyms if these don't serve your needs.

Embedded, imprinted, sunken, cupped, indented, incurved

0
1

I am shocked that no one has suggested "entrenched".

If you are careful to set up the proper context, you can avoid drawing out the trench aspect, and draw the mind of the reader to the more common modern usage, indicating "half buried" or "firmly set it place".

Hope that helps.

1

Your term is going to depend on the mood you want to convey. 'Entrenched', 'buried' sound more like a hostile or engulfing environment to me, whereas 'cupped' (my personal favourite) and 'settled' imply a nurturing place, a calm and cordial conversation.

1

The many great answers here suggest that this particular word blank is a great opportunity to not merely adequately describe the particular physical aspect of being half-buried, but to also give the scene some context or flavor.

For example, nestled implies a certain level of coziness and agreeable disposition, whereas stuck obviously implies something a little more troubling. Maybe they're not just stuck in the sand, they're stuck in an emotional rut!

Also, consider this an opportunity to stretch your reader's imaginations a little - perhaps the sand can be considered as a metaphor: a security blanket, an impish spirit, a caressing Mother Earth, lost time, a growing problem?

Some other suggestions, then, that might set a certain mood or tone or be appropriate to the context:

  • mired in the sand (despair / downhill trajectory )
  • snared in the sand ( unpleasant surprises )
  • embrangled in the sand ( belligerence / fighting )
  • embraced by the sand ( sand as friend )
  • attired in sand ( sand as clothes, dash of irony as attired usually means evening gowns and tuxedos )
  • half-swallowed by sand ( sand as the abyss )
  • their bodies greatly diminished by sand
  • slowly gnawed on by sand ( sand as problem )

There are of course plenty of literal choices as the above answers indicate, but the wonderful thing about writing is it provides you opportunities to employ a more purposeful diction to convey themes, mood, and even complex emotions with a sharp turn of phrase.

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