det·​o·​nate ˈde-tᵊn-ˌāt How to pronounce detonate (audio)
detonated; detonating

intransitive verb

: to explode with sudden violence

transitive verb

: to cause to detonate
detonate a bomb
compare deflagrate
: to set off in a burst of activity : spark
programs that detonated controversies
ˈde-tᵊn-ˌā-tə-bəl How to pronounce detonate (audio)
ˈde-tᵊn-ˌā-tiv How to pronounce detonate (audio)

Examples of detonate in a Sentence

The first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. the bomb detonated with a thunder that could be heard for blocks in all directions
Recent Examples on the Web Analysis of a 2010 barrage of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island by the North Korea-watching website 38 North found that half of the shells crashed into the ocean, failing to reach their target; a further quarter that did then didn’t detonate. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2023 When the atomic bombs were detonated over Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9), newsreel editors were caught flatfooted. Thomas Doherty, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Sep. 2023 Shapp's account differs from another version offered by sources to The Guardian indicating the lost Challenger 2 had hit a mine which detonated rear fuel stores on the vehicle. Sébastien Roblin, Popular Mechanics, 6 Sep. 2023 That same techno-paranoia animates this dystopian action thriller set in a future when artificial intelligence has detonated a nuclear weapon and mankind is fighting for its survival. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 4 Sep. 2023 In the summer of 2003, not long after U.S. forces had taken Baghdad, a group of Marines was clearing unexploded ordnance in central Iraq when one of the small grenades littering the ground detonated. John Ismay, New York Times, 3 Sep. 2023 In 1952, the world’s first hydrogen bomb test had obliterated a neighboring island—one of 43 nuclear bombs detonated at Enewetak in the early years of the Cold War. Celia Ford, WIRED, 30 Aug. 2023 The counterexamples tend to involve technologies that the government effectively built itself, like nuclear power development, which Congress regulated in 1946, one year after the first atomic bombs were detonated. Ian Prasad Philbrick,, 26 Aug. 2023 Before college football realignment and television executives detonated more than a century of tradition and pageantry, the Pac-12 Conference was poised to field the its best collection of teams and talent in years. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, 16 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French détoner to explode, from Latin detonare to expend thunder, from de- + tonare to thunder — more at thunder entry 1

First Known Use

1729, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of detonate was in 1729

Dictionary Entries Near detonate

Cite this Entry

“Detonate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


det·​o·​nate ˈdet-ᵊn-ˌāt How to pronounce detonate (audio)
detonated; detonating
: to explode or cause to explode with sudden violence

More from Merriam-Webster on detonate

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