bo·​lide | \ ˈbō-ˌlīd How to pronounce bolide (audio) , -lid \

Definition of bolide

: a large meteor : fireball especially : one that explodes

Examples of bolide in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Thaddeus LaCoursiere, a planetarium educator for the Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota, identified the plummeting object as a bolide, an extremely bright meteor that often explodes upon engaging Earth's atmosphere. Paul Walsh, Star Tribune, "Streaking meteor's predawn flash stars in an arresting video for Minnesota sheriff's deputy," 16 Dec. 2020 An infrasound network on the UAF campus in Fairbanks recorded a clean signal of the air-pressure waves from the Oct. 15 bolide over Western Alaska. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, "Tracking down a fireball in the sky over Alaska," 25 Oct. 2020 Conversely, several other large bolides are known to have arrived at various times in the past without accompanying extinctions. The Economist, "Palaeontology What really killed the dinosaurs?," 18 Jan. 2020 Earlier this year, while scanning the catalog’s records of meteoritic fireballs known as bolides, Siraj spotted one with an unusually high velocity. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, "An interstellar meteor may have slammed into Earth," 16 Apr. 2019 That bolide blasted apart with the energy of 2.3 kilotons of TNT. National Geographic, "Surprise Meteor Lights Up Harvest Moon Festival," 9 Oct. 2017 Larger pieces of comet debris can create exceptionally bright meteors known as bolides. Andrew Fazekas, National Geographic, "How to See the 2017 Perseid Meteor Shower," 11 Aug. 2017 The 17-meter bolide exploded in the air over the Chelyabinsk region of Russia on Feb. 15, shattering windows and injuring around 1,000 people. Adam Mann, WIRED, "Efforts to Protect Earth From Asteroids Are Under Way. But Will It Be Enough?," 22 Feb. 2013

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

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First Known Use of bolide

1784, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bolide

borrowed from French & Latin; French bolide, borrowed from Latin bolid-, bolis, borrowed from Greek bolid-, bolís "hunting javelin, bolt (of lightning), throw of dice," derivative of bol- (in bolḗ or bólos "throw, cast"), nominal derivative from the base of bállein "to throw" — more at devil entry 1

Note: The word "bolide" is owed ultimately to the Roman natural historian pliny the Elder. Pliny used Latin bolis, plural bolides, as one of several terms describing "prodigies in the heavens" (caelestia prodigia) in his Natural History (2.37). For meteors in general he employs the word facēs (literally, "torches"), which "are only seen when they are falling" ("non nisi cum decidunt visae"). While some facēs are only burning in their front part, the bolidēs burn continually and hence leave a longer track ("bolis vero perpetua ardens longiorem trahit limitem"). While Pliny's other terms for his heavenly prodigies are fairly straightforward (facēs "torches," lampades "torches, lamps," trabēs "beams"), the Greek loanword bolis has no other record of use in Latin. In Greek it is a sparsely attested word, and it is uncertain what sense Pliny had in mind.

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The first known use of bolide was in 1784

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Last Updated

31 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bolide.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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