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bil·​low ˈbi-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce billow (audio)
: wave
especially : a great wave or surge of water
the rolling billows of the sea
: a rolling mass (as of flame or smoke) that resembles a high wave
Billows of smoke poured out of the building.
billows of fog
billowy adjective


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billowed; billowing; billows

intransitive verb

: to rise or roll in waves or surges
the billowing sea
: to bulge or swell out (as through action of the wind)
billowing clouds
… the flags … billowed out in pride …G. B. Oxnam

transitive verb

: to cause to billow
a field of burning grass billowing thick black clouds of smoke into the skyDonald Windham

Examples of billow in a Sentence

Noun Billows of smoke poured out of the burning building. the rolling billows of the sea Verb the curtains in the open windows billowed in the summer wind
Recent Examples on the Web
Soon, though, curiosity seekers are going to set up cameras for a constant live shot of Spectrum Center to see when white smoke billows out of the top of the building. Roderick Boone, Charlotte Observer, 6 May 2024 Fabric, which stretches, bends, wrinkles, and billows, often in unpredictable ways, is notoriously difficult to get right. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, 15 Apr. 2024
Flames spread from the hood all across the front of the car as clouds of smoke and fire extinguisher spray billowed. Cassidy Jensen, Baltimore Sun, 9 May 2024 Zendaya again, of course, in a more dramatic silhouette for her billowing black Victorian-style Givenchy dress by John Galliano and a bouquet of roses for headpiece. Anika Reed, USA TODAY, 7 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for billow 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'billow.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

Old Norse bylgja; akin to Old High German balg bag — more at belly

First Known Use


1552, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1592, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of billow was in 1552

Dictionary Entries Near billow

Cite this Entry

“Billow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
bil·​low ˈbil-ō How to pronounce billow (audio)
: wave entry 2 sense 1
especially : a large wave
: a rolling mass like a high wave
billows of smoke


2 of 2 verb
: to rise or roll in waves
the billowing ocean
: to bulge or swell out
sails billowing in the breeze

More from Merriam-Webster on billow

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