light·​ning | \ ˈlīt-niŋ \

Definition of lightning

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : the flashing of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity also : the discharge itself
2 : a sudden stroke of fortune candidates … hoping for real lightning to strikeTime



Definition of lightning (Entry 2 of 3)

: having or moving with or as if with the speed and suddenness of lightning a lightning assault


lightninged; lightning

Definition of lightning (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to discharge a flash of lightning

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Examples of lightning in a Sentence


thoughts moving at lightning speed he made a lightning dash for the goal

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The crowd fell under the Chicago legend’s spell from that point on, basking in lightning from sky and stage. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Best and worst of Summerfest Day 4: In Real Life, Kaleo, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang and more," 30 June 2018 When there’s lightning near Memphis or a pilot doesn’t want to land in Duluth because there’s fog, for example, this team tries to figure out what to do next. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "Inside FedEx’s Christmas Miracle," 19 Dec. 2018 Toward the end of the month, Fortnite’s island was plagued by a lightning storm, which ultimately birthed one of the game’s great mysteries: a giant purple cube. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "The year in Fortnite," 18 Dec. 2018 In dry, hot times like these, the record number of decaying ponderosa pines, sugar pines, and other towering species can become kindling for errant sparks, fallen power lines, cigarette butts, and lightning strikes. Umair Irfan, Vox, "California has 129 million dead trees. That’s a huge wildfire risk.," 1 Sep. 2018 Washington recorded more than 180 lightning strikes over the 24 hours that ended at 8 a.m. Sunday, as thunderstorms rolled across the Northwest. Benjamin Romano, The Seattle Times, "Weekend lightning, wind spread wildfires across Washington state," 14 Aug. 2018 Businesses pay good money to prey on the fear of missing out, launching lightning deals that are sometimes only live for minutes at a time, achieving impulse sales that would be logistically impossible in brick-and-mortar stores. Rebekka Ayres, Teen Vogue, "Black Friday, Explained: A Complete History," 23 Nov. 2018 Insurers, at least, do not appear to agree with the lightning theory. Susie Cagle, Curbed, "California’s changing fire country," 10 Oct. 2018 After stunning in House of Holland’s sunflower-yellow suit yesterday, Kendall Jenner proved that fashion lightning strikes twice while out and about earlier today in Paris. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "Kendall Jenner Gets a Leg Up On Next Season’s It Shoe," 27 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

When not taking measurements, crews on Hurricane Hunters see sights few others do: lightning traveling around the walls of a storm’s eye. Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post, "‘God was flying the plane’: Hurricane Hunters land in D.C. during public tour," 9 May 2017 That’s the most since 2007, when lightning killed 45 people. The Denver Post, "Colorado is the third deadliest state for fatal lightning strikes," 8 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lightning.' 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 lightning


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1576, in the meaning defined above


1903, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for lightning

Noun, Adjective, and Verb

Middle English, from gerund of lightenen to lighten

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Statistics for lightning

Last Updated

20 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lightning

The first known use of lightning was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for lightning



English Language Learners Definition of lightning

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the flashes of light that are produced in the sky during a storm



English Language Learners Definition of lightning (Entry 2 of 2)

: moving or done very quickly


light·​ning | \ ˈlīt-niŋ \

Kids Definition of lightning

: the flashing of light caused by the passing of electricity from one cloud to another or between a cloud and the earth

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Comments on lightning

What made you want to look up lightning? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a complex dispute or argument

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