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


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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Despite the howling gales and thunder and lightning, Zwart was able to land the plane safely after circling the airport for more than hour. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "8 Emergency Landings That Rival the 'Miracle on the Hudson'," 15 Jan. 2019 Your once perfect little neon power ball is suddenly overtaken by a foundation tsunami, with lightning bolts of old eyeliner at every turn. Blake Bakkila, Good Housekeeping, "How to Clean Your Beautyblender in 3 Easy Steps, According to Experts," 2 Jan. 2019 The weather event in which thunder and lightning occur during a snowstorm was most recently spotted during November’s Winter Storm Bruce. Megan Stein, Country Living, "What Is Thundersnow? Everything to Know About the Rare Weather Phenomenon," 26 Nov. 2018 Certain gods are seen as capable of dispensing instant justice by striking offenders with thunder and lightning. Sam Olukoya, Fox News, "In Nigeria, voodoo festival shows strength of traditions," 27 Sep. 2018 But half an hour before it was supposed to begin, there was a torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "A Look Back at All of Queen Elizabeth's Presidential Meetings," 13 July 2018 Thunder and lightning were reported just south of downtown about 2:30 p.m Thursday. Gordon Dickson, star-telegram, "Hail in July? Scattered heavy storms pack a punch across North Texas," 12 July 2018 The potential for flash floods, dust storms, and heavy thunder and lightning all are at play come the stormy weather. Kimberly Rapanut, azcentral, "What to take away from Arizona's 2018 wildfire season so far," 13 June 2018 The Democratic frontrunners made an 11th-hour get-out-the-vote effort in Boise Tuesday, where they were greeted by voters, thunder, lightning and some very heavy rain. Maria L. La Ganga, idahostatesman, "Paulette Jordan claims Democratic victory: 'We won this race by everyone.' | Idaho Statesman," 15 May 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

3 Mar 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 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

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


to reflect, repel, echo, or resound

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