A recent article on supernovae began with:

A little under three million years ago, a massive star exploded in our galaxy about 300 light years away. This supernova was so close to our planet that, depending on where it went off, our evolutionary ancestors might have seen it as a bright light in the sky. As our solar system traveled through radioactive specks of stardust left over from the explosion, some of the dust broke through our atmosphere and rained down on our planet.

Now a recent find from deep within our still-vast ocean is helping us piece together details of a cosmic event that may have changed our planet millions of years ago.

That last sentence has me scratching my head. The oceans are of course vast, but what is the author implying by using the phrase "still-vast"?


The meaning of "recent find within our vast ocean" is clear - the ocean was, is, and will continue to be very large. So unless the author is just wasting wasting ink, still-vast must mean something different. Compare and contrast the meaning of still-vast with vast alone. Possibilities include the ocean is expected to become less large, the ocean has already become somewhat less large but is still very large (as ab2 says, this doesn't fit with reality), the ocean is expected to become less unknown (more explored), or something else.

  • It is indeed odd. Even if sea level was higher 3 million years ago, and the oceans larger than now, they haven't shrunk enough to emphasize that they are "still vast". An editor should have questioned this.
    – ab2
    Aug 9, 2016 at 23:57

2 Answers 2


vast- very great in size, amount, or extent

"still-vast" is hyphenated, meaning the words go together. It's basically implying that the ocean is big, and there is always more room for discovery/exploration due to its continuing vastness (it remains vast). It's one of those made-up hyphenated compounds. Authors sometimes do that.

Additionally, it likely suggests that our oceans are not going to be vast forever, hence the "still".

  • Good answer. But do you think it could also be suggesting that our oceans are not going to be vast forever? Hence the "still"?
    – Dog Lover
    Aug 11, 2016 at 0:28
  • That's what I think the writer meant, yes.
    – user190075
    Aug 11, 2016 at 0:34
  • I've added it your answer :)
    – Dog Lover
    Aug 11, 2016 at 0:35

"Still" / "yet" doesn't always have to have a temporal connotation. In this case it means nevertheless or anyway.

Googling "still" gives the following in a definition card:

nevertheless; all the same. "I'm afraid he's crazy. Still, he's harmless."

The Earth is miniscule compared to the vastness of space (which is what the first part of the quotation is about). Still , on a human scale, the ocean is vast enough for new discoveries (the subject of the last part of the quotation) to be made there.

The writer took some liberties abbreviating all of that to "still-vast" but it's not unheard-of for article writers to do those things.

Another way to look at it is temporal, but in a psychological way: humans, at least, still consider it vast because they cannot yet consider it small. Someday we may, but no physical shrinkage is necessary.

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