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a bag made of thin rubber or other light material, usually brightly colored, inflated with air or with some lighter-than-air gas and used as a children’s plaything or as a decoration.
a bag made of a light material, as silk or plastic, filled with heated air or a gas lighter than air, designed to rise and float in the atmosphere and often having a car or gondola attached below for carrying passengers or scientific instruments.
(in drawings, cartoons, etc.) a balloon-shaped outline enclosing words represented as issuing from the mouth of the speaker.
an ornamental ball at the top of a pillar, pier, or the like.
a large, globular wineglass.
Chemistry Now Rare. a round-bottomed flask.
to go up or ride in a balloon.
to swell or puff out like a balloon.
to multiply or increase at a rapid rate:
Membership has ballooned beyond all expectations.
to fill with air; inflate or distend (something) like a balloon.
puffed out like a balloon:
balloon sleeves.
Finance. (of a loan, mortgage, or the like) having a payment at the end of the term that is much bigger than previous ones.
Contemporary Examples

For the poppers, there is a sexual tension in the blowing up of the balloon.
Eight Strange Sex Fetishes Aurora Snow December 15, 2010

Take a deep breath, fill up like a balloon—now buzz like a bee.
The Child-Meditation Miracle Gwynne Watkins August 2, 2010

Writes Wilkinson, “When asked what he would do if his balloon came down in the water with no one around, he said, ‘Drown.’ ”
Must Reads: Madison’s Slaves, Pam Houston, and Alec Wilkinson Eric Herschthal, Kevin Canfield, Nina MacLaughlin February 22, 2012

For the non-poppers, the turn-on is watching the balloon expand and expand.
Eight Strange Sex Fetishes Aurora Snow December 15, 2010

Some suggest Heene saw dollar signs only after the balloon went up.
Hoaxed America Wants Its Pound of Flesh Wendy Murphy October 17, 2009

Historical Examples

The only reason why we did not tell of the balloon, was on account of the fire.
The Talisman Anonymous

Our journey must now be compared to the descent from cloud-land in a balloon.
The Roof of France Matilda Betham-Edwards

We were told that a man was going up in the air in a balloon.
Autobiography of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, or Black Hawk Black Hawk

Well, up in a balloon there ain’t any of that, and it’s the darlingest place there is.
Tom Sawyer Abroad Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

I’m certain if I was up in a balloon it would look like a map with all those funny little hedges.
Queensland Cousins Eleanor Luisa Haverfield

an inflatable rubber bag of various sizes, shapes, and colours: usually used as a plaything or party decoration
a large impermeable bag inflated with a lighter-than-air gas, designed to rise and float in the atmosphere. It may have a basket or gondola for carrying passengers, etc See also barrage balloon, hot-air balloon
a circular or elliptical figure containing the words or thoughts of a character in a cartoon

a kick or stroke that propels a ball high into the air
(as modifier): a balloon shot

(chem) a round-bottomed flask
a large rounded brandy glass

a large sum paid as an irregular instalment of a loan repayment
(as modifier): a balloon loan


an inflatable plastic tube used for dilating obstructed blood vessels or parts of the alimentary canal
(as modifier): balloon angioplasty

(informal) go down like a lead balloon, to be completely unsuccessful or unpopular
(informal) when the balloon goes up, when the trouble or action begins
(intransitive) to go up or fly in a balloon
(intransitive) to increase or expand significantly and rapidly: losses ballooned to £278 million
to inflate or be inflated; distend; swell: the wind ballooned the sails
(transitive) (Brit) to propel (a ball) high into the air

1570s, “a game played with a large inflated leather ball,” from Italian pallone “large ball,” from palla “ball,” from a Germanic source akin to Langobardic palla (from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE *bhel- (2) “to blow, swell;” see bole) + -one, suffix indicating great size.

Perhaps also borrowed in part from French ballon (16c.), altered (after balle) from Italian pallone. It also meant the ball itself (1590s), which was batted back and forth by means of large wooden paddles strapped to the forearms. In 17c., it also meant “a type of fireworks housed in a pasteboard ball” (1630s) and “round ball used as an architectural ornament” (1650s). Acquired modern meaning after Montgolfier brothers’ flights, 1783. As a child’s toy, it is attested from 1848; as “outline containing words in a comic engraving” it dates from 1844. Also cf. -oon.

“to go up in a balloon,” 1792; “to swell, puff up,” 1841, from balloon (n.). Related: Ballooned; ballooning.

balloon bal·loon (bə-lōōn’)
An inflatable spherical device that is inserted into a body cavity or structure and distended with air or gas for therapeutic purposes.


A hobo’s bedroll; bindle (1920s+)
A condom (1960s+)
A dollar bill; one dollar: It’ll cost you six balloons (1970s+)
A platoon (1970s+ Army)
The floating blob with a line to a speaker’s mouth, used to show speech in comic strips (1840s+)


To lose one’s lines completely during a performance; blow up, go up (1920s+ Theater)

Related Terms

lead balloon, trial balloon, when the balloon goes up
In addition to the idiom beginning with


Read Also:

  • Balloon angioplasty

    a method of opening a clogged or narrowed blood vessel in which a small balloon is introduced into the vessel by means of a catheter and then inflated at the site of blockage. balloon angioplasty n. A procedure in which a catheter equipped with a tiny balloon at the tip is inserted into an artery […]

  • Balloon barrage

    a series of moored balloons, usually strung together and hung with cables, for impeding a low-level attack by enemy aircraft.

  • Balloon-berry


  • Balloon chuck

    a lathe chuck having the form of a hollow hemisphere, for enclosing and holding small parts, as balance staffs of watches, so that only their ends are exposed.

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