bil·​low | \ ˈbi-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce billow (audio) \

Definition of billow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : wave especially : a great wave or surge of water the rolling billows of the sea
2 : a rolling mass (as of flame or smoke) that resembles a high wave Billows of smoke poured out of the building. billows of fog


billowed; billowing; billows

Definition of billow (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to rise or roll in waves or surges the billowing sea
2 : 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 sky— Donald Windham

Other Words from billow


billowy \ ˈbi-​lə-​wē How to pronounce billow (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for billow

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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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: Noun The helicopters kicked up huge plumes of powder that had fallen Monday night, and the aircraft quickly disappeared in a billow of snow. Frederick Dreier, Outside Online, 22 Feb. 2022 The first to ride on the new Mercedes-Benz EV platform, the EQS is a flagship at full billow. Nicholas Wallace, Car and Driver, 15 Feb. 2022 Smoke and ash billow from the cone of Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, instead of the molten lava that streamed from its flanks on May 22, killing dozens of people and destroying 5,000 homes in nearby Goma. New York Times, 2 June 2021 Don’t go quiet while emotions like loneliness and anxiety billow inside you. Malia Wollan, New York Times, 29 Dec. 2020 Speaking of curls, Adut Akech rocked cornrows that cascaded into a billow of her spirals. Akili King, Vogue, 8 Nov. 2020 Thrown canisters and grenades of tear gas produce clouds of powder with an appearance akin to smoke that billow in the air like a mist. Kelsey D. Atherton, Scientific American, 23 June 2020 When the stones are red-hot, water is thrown onto them, raising billows of light steam. Rachel Polonsky, The New York Review of Books, 27 May 2020 And so the wretched wander the business district, pitching camp on the sidewalks, warming their suppers and sandwiches on the sewer caps that billow with steam. Charlie Leduff, Los Angeles Times, 1 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Every weekend, plumes of smoke billow up from the parking lot of the Wat Thai Temple in Sun Valley. Los Angeles Times, 13 June 2022 The two open doors allowed smoke to billow through the stairwell, Nigro said. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, 12 Jan. 2022 Officials said two truck drivers were stranded on the burning vessel awaiting a helicopter rescue that required assistance from Fire Department special forces due to the thick smoke that continued to billow out of the vessel. NBC News, 18 Feb. 2022 Lewis, who was living in Southern Utah during the 2002 Games, said the excitement around them felt closer to the epicenter didn’t exactly billow in down south. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Feb. 2022 All the bubbling fruit and sugar produces a lot of foam that threatens to billow over the side of the pot. Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2022 At the oil wells, thick plumes of steam billow overhead from the millions of gallons of water heated by natural-gas facilities. Vipal Monga, WSJ, 13 Jan. 2022 Scores of players continue to be caught in the league's virus protocol as the omicron variant continues to billow across the nation. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, 3 Jan. 2022 On Good Friday in Bermuda, people gather on the country’s beaches to watch enormous, multicolored pinwheel-like kites billow through the clouds in homage to Christ’s ascension. New York Times, 29 Sep. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'billow.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of billow


1552, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1592, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for billow

Noun and Verb

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

Learn More About billow

Dictionary Entries Near billow



billow cloud

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Statistics for billow

Cite this Entry

“Billow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for billow


bil·​low | \ ˈbi-lō How to pronounce billow (audio) \

Kids Definition of billow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a large wave … the billows rose and fell unbroken.— Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
2 : a moving cloud or mass (as of smoke or flame)


billowed; billowing

Kids Definition of billow (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to rise or roll in large waves the billowing ocean
2 : to move as a large cloud or mass Smoke billowed from the chimney.
3 : to bulge or swell out Sails billowed in the breeze.

More from Merriam-Webster on billow

Nglish: Translation of billow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of billow for Arabic Speakers


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