[lahyt-ning] /ˈlaɪt nɪŋ/

a brilliant electric spark discharge in the atmosphere, occurring within a thundercloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.
verb (used without object), lightninged, lightning.
to emit a flash or flashes of lightning (often used impersonally with it as subject):
If it starts to lightning, we’d better go inside.
of, relating to, or resembling lightning, especially in regard to speed of movement:
lightning flashes; lightning speed.
a flash of light in the sky, occurring during a thunderstorm and caused by a discharge of electricity, either between clouds or between a cloud and the earth related adjectives fulgurous fulminous
(modifier) fast and sudden: a lightning raid

late 13c., present participle of lightnen “make bright,” extended form of Old English lihting, from leht (see light (n.)). Meaning “cheap, raw whiskey” is attested from 1781, also sometimes “gin.” Lightning bug is attested from 1778. Lightning rod from 1790.

A flash of light in the sky caused by an electrical discharge between clouds or between a cloud and the Earth’s surface. The flash heats the air and usually causes thunder. Lightning may appear as a jagged streak, as a bright sheet, or in rare cases, as a glowing red ball.

Our Living Language : As storm clouds develop, the temperature at the top of the cloud becomes much cooler than that at the bottom. For reasons that scientists still do not understand, this temperature difference results in the accumulation of negatively charged particles near the base and positively charged particles near the top of the storm cloud. The negatively charged particles repel the electrons of atoms in nearby objects, such as the bases of other storm clouds or tall objects on the ground. Consequently, these nearby objects take on a positive charge. The difference in charge, or voltage, builds until an electric current starts to flow between the objects along a pathway of charged atoms in the air. The current flow heats up the air to such a degree that it glows, generating lightning. Initially, a bolt of lightning carrying a negative charge darts from one storm cloud to another or from a storm cloud to the ground, leaving the bottom of the cloud with a positive charge. In response, a second bolt (reverse lightning) shoots in the opposite direction (from the other storm cloud or the ground) as the mass of negative charges on it moves back to neutralize the positive charge on the bottom of the first cloud. The heat generated by the lightning causes the air to expand, in turn creating very large sound waves, or thunder.

An electrical discharge from clouds that have acquired an electrical charge, usually occurring during storms. (See thunder.)


Cheap, raw whiskey; white lightning (1781+)

Related Terms

chain lightning, greased lightning, ride the lightning, white lightning

frequently referred to by the sacred writers (Nah. 1:3-6). Thunder and lightning are spoken of as tokens of God’s wrath (2 Sam. 22:15; Job 28:26; 37:4; Ps. 135:7; 144:6; Zech. 9:14). They represent God’s glorious and awful majesty (Rev. 4:5), or some judgment of God on the world (20:9).

In addition to the idiom beginning with


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  • Lightning stroke

    noun 1. a discharge of lightning between a cloud and the earth, esp one that causes damage 2. (vet science) sudden death due to being struck by lightning, esp of cattle, horses or sheep

  • Light-on

    [lahyt] /laɪt/ verb (used without object), lighted or lit, lighting. 1. to get down or descend, as from a horse or a vehicle. 2. to come to rest, as on a spot or thing; fall or settle upon; land: The bird lighted on the branch. My eye lighted on some friends in the crowd. 3. […]

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    noun 1. . noun 1. another term for operetta

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