light·​ning | \ ˈlīt-niŋ How to pronounce lightning (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of lightning in a Sentence

Adjective thoughts moving at lightning speed he made a lightning dash for the goal
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The rollout of new 5G wireless networks is showing signs of slowing, denting near-term sales prospects for some networking equipment makers and potentially delaying access for some consumers to the lightning-fast data speeds the technology promises. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "Superfast 5G Rollout Hits Slow Patch, Some Equipment Suppliers Say," 14 Feb. 2020 For the full story on the Porsche's performance, including braking and skidpad figures, read our full instrumented test of the Taycan Turbo S. That lightning-quick acceleration does come at a cost, though. Connor Hoffman, Car and Driver, "Porsche Taycan Turbo S Is the Third-Quickest Car We've Ever Tested," 29 Jan. 2020 In the data economy, users’ personal information can be used in lightning-fast transactions, like the real-time auction that goes on behind each online ad, and stored in databases for decades. Tribune News Service, oregonlive, "New California privacy law aims to tame wild west of internet data," 29 Dec. 2019 Tubridy will perform in roughly 100 shows this holiday season, executing iconic eye-high kicks and speeding through lightning-fast costume changes (one of which is only 78 seconds). Rosie Colosi, NBC News, "Find out how this Rockette mom of 3 kids under 3 calms the chaos," 12 Dec. 2019 But Piranha seems to be erring on the side of transparency and helpfulness for all possible control rigs, if the team's friendly and lightning-fast replies to my queries are any indication. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "How MechWarrior’s return took me back to the early ‘90s mall in my mind," 10 Dec. 2019 Thompson said it’s not entirely uncommon for planes to be struck by lightning. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska Airlines plane struck by lightning before landing in Cordova," 29 Jan. 2020 Jim Caviezel The Passion of the Christ lead actor was struck by lightning while filming the 2004 drama. Lydia Price,, "17 Terrifying Stories from Actors Who Were Injured in Scary On-Set Accidents," 15 Jan. 2020 Yale coach Tony Reno said the team reverted to its plans for when a game is interrupted by lightning. Washington Post, "Harvard-Yale game delayed by student protest; 20-30 arrested," 24 Nov. 2019 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about lightning

Time Traveler for lightning

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for lightning

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Lightning.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for lightning


How to pronounce lightning (audio)

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 How to pronounce lightning (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!