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 Some showed rainbows juxtaposed against dark, cloudy skies and flashes of lightning. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, "North Texas under tornado watch as severe weather rips across Lone Star State, Oklahoma," 24 Apr. 2021 But last year’s record-breaking firestorms were sparked by both historic heat waves and an outbreak of dry lightning. Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times, "Is California suffering a decades-long megadrought?," 18 Apr. 2021 This Day in Weather History February 26th 1996: A bolt of lightning from a snowstorm causes an explosion at a fireworks storage site in Milaca. Star Tribune, "Windy and warm Friday expected," 25 Feb. 2021 One possibility is that flashes of lightning on Venus follow volcanic eruptions. Robin George Andrews, Science, "Does lightning strike on Venus? Mysterious flash may help solve puzzle.," 28 Dec. 2020 Rain will continue moving southward, bringing the bulk of the week’s showers Monterey Bay and Big Sur Coast regions, with a potential of coastal lightning, forecasters said. Vanessa Arredondo,, "Wet weather sticking around ahead of clear New Year’s Day," 27 Dec. 2020 Perez was hit by a bolt of lightning while standing next to a tree, NLSC records show. Joe Mario Pedersen,, "Lightning deaths low in 2020, but Florida still leads nation as COVID-19 muddies reporting," 19 Dec. 2020 Then the flashes of lightning, the thunder, the boy’s shock at seeing him. Paul Theroux, The New Yorker, "Dietrologia," 30 Nov. 2020 Crashing thunder and jolts of lightning from a nearby summer thunderstorm can also add excitement for the weather watcher. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Volunteering at fire lookout towers a rewarding experience," 16 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The smoldering tree was found recently by scientists and fire crews surveying the effects of the blaze, which was ignited by lightning last August and spread over more than 270 square miles of the Sierra Nevada. CBS News, "Giant sequoia found still smoldering from 2020 California wildfire," 6 May 2021 In 2004, four students were struck by lightning in Orange County, Florida after getting off of a bus. Marshall Shepherd, Forbes, "The Lightning Loophole Endangering Students Before And After School," 5 May 2021 Yet the East Fork fire, sparked by lightning last August on the Uinta Mountains’ South Slope, hardly grabbed much media attention. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah’s largest fire of 2020 torched the Uintas’ south slope, but it may have done some good," 3 May 2021 And a person is about 18 times more likely to die from being struck by lightning than from a clot following a J&J vaccination. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, "Vaccines remain the ticket to normalcy," 28 Apr. 2021 That’s about half as likely as getting struck by lightning in a year. William Petri, The Conversation, "Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension – what this means for you," 13 Apr. 2021 That’s about half as likely as getting struck by lightning in a year. The Conversation, oregonlive, "What suspension of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine means to you: a professor of medicine explains," 13 Apr. 2021 Stone details miraculously surviving near-decapitation, being struck by lightning and walking away from her totaled car after skidding on black ice. Cady Lang, Time, "How Celebrity Memoirs Got So Good," 13 Apr. 2021 Other areas reported up to 2 inches of rain, while a house in Mount Dora was damaged after it was struck by lightning and caught fire, according to the Associated Press. Rachel Desantis,, "Fla. Teen Dies After Stepping on Fallen Power Line That Set Fire to Her Car," 12 Apr. 2021

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

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Lightning.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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