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

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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 Often, a label might find more success trying to amplify a song that’s already a viral success by adding a famous person to it, rather than investing in an unknown and waiting for lightning to strike again. New York Times, "How Do Pop Stars Come to TikTok? Hat in Hand, Grasping at Buzz," 17 Feb. 2021 In Albuquerque, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for a lightning-producing snow squall as the developing system got underway Saturday night. Matthew Cappucci,, "Historic Arctic outbreak brings dangerous cold, snow, and ice to central and southern US," 14 Feb. 2021 That’s a drag for scientists, because the mesosphere is loaded with interesting phenomena, like weird blue and red lightning and the microscopic shrapnel of millions of meteors—shooting stars—scorching through it every day. Max G. Levy, Wired, "Researchers Levitated a Small Tray Using Nothing but Light," 12 Feb. 2021 That date is the lightning bolt that brings this work to life and makes the meaning of the drawing arc across time. Jerry Saltz, Vulture, "Roni Horn’s ‘I Am Paralyzed With Hope’ Is a Flag for a New America," 3 Feb. 2021 His own educational journey took off at a lightning pace when a family friend introduced him to the library at age eight. Isaac Schorr, National Review, "A Picture of Thomas Sowell," 7 Feb. 2021 During a performance on the open-sided stage at Wolf Trap near Vienna, Virginia, lightning flashed and thunder cracked just as Holbrook reached toward the humidor for a cigar. Mark Kennedy, Star Tribune, "Hal Holbrook, prolific actor who played Twain, dies at 95," 2 Feb. 2021 So Weird is essentially regenerating its entire plot — one where lightning can indeed strike twice. Ashley Wolfgang, Vulture, "10 Essential Episodes of So Weird, the Paranormal Show Too Dark for Disney Channel," 1 Feb. 2021 Marrone and Caldwell caught lightning in a bottle in 2017, when the Jaguars reached the AFC title game and came within a quarter of reaching Super Bowl LII. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Ranking NFL's seven open head coaching jobs in 2021, including Philadelphia Eagles, from worst to first," 11 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb That’s because the high-powered beams create a kind of plasma conduit in the air—like seeding clouds for rain, the line of plasma draws lightning to it and even catalyzes the discharges so they can be controlled. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "These Scientists Say They Can Control Lightning," 26 Nov. 2020 Scientists have been looking for lightning on Venus for nearly half a century, searching through telescopes and monitoring for telltale electromagnetic sizzling with spacecraft. Robin George Andrews, Science, "Does lightning strike on Venus? Mysterious flash may help solve puzzle.," 28 Dec. 2020 Sparked by lightning on July 31, the Pine Gulch Fire has burned through 139,006 acres of remote terrain in western Colorado, with containment at 77%, according to InciWeb. Jessica Flores, USA TODAY, "Pine Gulch Fire becomes largest wildfire in Colorado history, burning over 217 square miles near Grand Junction," 28 Aug. 2020 According to the most recent data available from the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,357 were killed by lightning in India in 2018. Fox News, "Lightning strikes in India kill 147 over 10 days, hundreds have died since May," 8 July 2020 Fourteen people have been killed by lightning in Arizona since 2009, according to National Weather Service numbers. Weldon B. Johnson, azcentral, "Guide to the Arizona monsoon: Dust storms, lightning and safety tips for first-timers," 3 June 2020 Expect his workload to significantly increase as a 6-2 guard who is lightning quick off the dribble. Matt Goul, cleveland, "Ohio State commit Malaki Branham, Mentor’s Luke Chicone lead top 50 players to watch: 2020-21 boys basketball preview," 27 Nov. 2020 That’s about the chance of being struck by lightning at some point in your lifetime. Michael Hiltzik, Star Tribune, "23,000 households reported income over $10 million last year. The IRS audited seven," 7 Nov. 2020 The speed at which games load will also be lightning fast. Gieson Cacho,, "PlayStation 5 vs. Xbox Series X: Which system is better?," 9 Nov. 2020

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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Learn More about lightning

Time Traveler for lightning Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for lightning

Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Lightning.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

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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 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

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Comments on lightning

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