neb·​u·​la | \ ˈne-byə-lə How to pronounce nebula (audio) \
plural nebulae\ ˈne-​byə-​ˌlē How to pronounce nebulae (audio) , -​ˌlī \ also nebulas

Definition of nebula

1 : any of numerous clouds of gas or dust in interstellar space
2 : galaxy sense 1b especially : a galaxy other than the Milky Way galaxy not used technically

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Other Words from nebula

nebular \ ˈne-​byə-​lər How to pronounce nebular (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?

Nebula comes to us from Latin, where it meant "mist" or "cloud." In its earliest English uses in the 1600s, nebula referred to a cloudy speck or film on the eye that caused vision problems. It was first applied to great interstellar clouds of gas and dust in the early 1700s. The adjective nebulous comes from the same Latin root as nebula, but the first uses of nebulous don't appear in English until the late 1700s, well after the discovery of interstellar nebulae.

Examples of nebula in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The current theory is that Titan may have formed early on in the solar system’s history—within the protosolar nebula, which eventually belched out the sun—and not during Saturn’s formation. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Titan May Have a New Origin Story," 9 Mar. 2020 And all three studies provide evidence that the object was formed in a collapsing particle cloud in the local solar nebula -- the cloud of gas and dust from which our sun and planets formed. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Distant object in our solar system could show how planets form, scientists reveal," 13 Feb. 2020 Closer observations of these nebulae have revealed giant balls of gas as big as our entire solar system flying away from their host star. Charlie Wood, Popular Science, "Our newest alien comet may have been born out of a dying star’s vomit," 3 Jan. 2020 The view zooms in to show how the nebula looks to the Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra telescopes. Lee Roop |, al, "New NASA movie of exploding star has Alabama roots," 8 Jan. 2020 The gas and dust of these nebulas consist of different elements that appear in our telescopes and cameras as a variety of colors. Shannon Stirone, Wired, "Space Photos of the Week: Swooning for the Swan Nebula," 11 Jan. 2020 Many of these interstellar nebulas -- which are clouds of gas and dust in space -- are best observed in infrared light because infrared wavelengths can pass through intervening layers of dust in the Milky Way galaxy. Fox News, "Stunning starry region spotted by NASA Spitzer Space Telescope," 3 Oct. 2019 The distant nebula -- named for its shape -- is embedded in the Orion cloud complex. Fox News, "NASA releases stunning image of Horsehead Nebula," 18 Dec. 2019 Activities include constellation geoboards, moon dough and moon phases experiment, nebula in a bottle craft, space trivia and stargazing with the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches. Jennifer Boehm,, "What to do with the kids this weekend: Turkey Trot, hot air balloons and more," 26 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nebula.' 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 nebula

1718, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nebula

New Latin, from Latin, mist, cloud; akin to Old High German nebul fog, Greek nephelē, nephos cloud

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Time Traveler for nebula

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The first known use of nebula was in 1718

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Last Updated

28 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nebula.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for nebula


How to pronounce nebula (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nebula

: a cloud of gas or dust in space that can sometimes be seen at night
: a group of stars that are very far away and look like a bright cloud at night


neb·​u·​la | \ ˈne-byə-lə How to pronounce nebula (audio) \
plural nebulae\ -​ˌlē \ or nebulas

Kids Definition of nebula

1 : any of many clouds of gas or dust seen in the sky among the stars


neb·​u·​la | \ ˈneb-yə-lə How to pronounce nebula (audio) \
plural nebulas or nebulae\ -​ˌlē How to pronounce nebulae (audio) , -​ˌlī How to pronounce nebulae (audio) \

Medical Definition of nebula

: a slight cloudy opacity of the cornea

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Spanish Central: Translation of nebula

Nglish: Translation of nebula for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about nebula

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