1 of 3


light·​ning ˈlīt-niŋ How to pronounce lightning (audio)
: the flashing of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity
also : the discharge itself
: a sudden stroke of fortune
candidates … hoping for real lightning to strikeTime


2 of 3


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


3 of 3


lightninged; lightning

intransitive verb

: to discharge a flash of lightning

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
His additional credits include Doug Liman’s action movie Jumper, Billy Ray’s New York Times drama Shattered Glass, his 2001 breakout Life as a House, and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, among others. IAG has sent a lightning bolt through the agency landscape since CAA’s acquisition of ICM. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Nov. 2023 Mike Schaller Temple City :: In an effort to catch lightning in a bottle, Steve Ballmer has approved a trade for James Harden that is reminiscent of Arte Moreno’s signing of Albert Pujols. Los Angeles Times, 4 Nov. 2023 Historical research shows that low- to moderate-intensity wildfire—sparked by either lightning or Indigenous peoples—occurred at six- to 35-year intervals, greatly reducing fuel loads. WIRED, 18 Nov. 2023 After Zeus accuses him of stealing his master lightning bolt, Percy treks across the U.S. to find the bolt, clear his name and restore order to Olympus. Emma Kershaw, Peoplemag, 12 Nov. 2023 The performances draw a global audience and the Santa Fe sky—which flickers between glowing sunsets, a dazzling canopy of stars, and jazzy lightning performances—puts on its own unmatched show night after night. Alexandra Malmed, Vogue, 8 Nov. 2023 Piper’s voice struck the hall like a bolt of lightning. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 6 Nov. 2023 The doctor told me the uv of the lightning of the stage did it. Todd Spangler, Variety, 6 Nov. 2023 Outside, a red light flashes in the dark sky, like lightning; it is followed not by rain but by rubble that pounds the roofs of houses around us. Mosab Abu Toha, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023
The bar also has a basketball court — put in after a tree was struck by lightning and fell over into the parking lot. Dallas News, 17 Oct. 2022 As art, the districts are a whimsical collection of fire-breathing dragons, lightning bolts and doodlebugs. Dallas News, 3 Jan. 2023 This approach is still not lightning quick; red kidney beans take longer to get tender than many varieties. Joe Yonan, Washington Post, 11 Dec. 2022 Actress Bevin Prince has given an emotional first on-camera interview to Good Morning America about the death of her husband, who was fatally struck by lightning over the summer. Brendan Morrow, The Week, 9 Dec. 2022 Civilization goes, the mind goes, and the God of the Upanishads speaks in syllables of thunder, the whole scene strobed by lightning bolts and the shock editing of life flashing before your eyes. James Parker, The Atlantic, 8 Dec. 2022 Friend, who was CEO of digital media company Bisnow at the time, was pronounced dead after he was struck by lightning during a family boat outing on Sunday, July 3. Glenn Garner, Peoplemag, 3 Dec. 2022 Cuba suffered an earlier natural disaster, just weeks before the hurricane, when lightning hit a major oil storage facility in Matanzas, east of Havana, causing a massive blaze that burned for days, contributing to fuel shortages. Karen Deyoung, Anchorage Daily News, 19 Oct. 2022 The Cedar Creek Fire about 150 miles south of Portland, Oregon, was started by lightning Aug. 1 and was still burning Saturday. Dennis Romero, NBC News, 16 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Noun, Adjective, and Verb

Middle English, from gerund of lightenen to lighten

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1576, in the meaning defined above


1861, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lightning was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near lightning

Cite this Entry

“Lightning.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
light·​ning ˈlīt-niŋ How to pronounce lightning (audio)
: the flashing of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity from one cloud to another or between a cloud and the earth
also : the discharge itself


2 of 2 adjective
: moving or done with or as if with the speed of lightning

More from Merriam-Webster on lightning

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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