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

Now almost 30 years old, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the Pillars of Creation—vast gas-and-dust towers in a nebula about 7,000 light years away, where new stars are being formed. WSJ, "Leaps for Humankind," 22 Feb. 2019 Like all stars, our sun began in a nebula, where gas and dust collapsed on itself in a flurry of cosmic friction. Jill Kiedaisch, Popular Mechanics, "When the Sun Dies, a Giant Crystal Will Take Its Place," 11 Jan. 2019 The photo also reveals just how many star clusters call this nebula, also known as 30 Doradus, home. Chelsea Gohd,, "A Tarantula and Seahorse Make Up These Dazzling Nebulas," 30 May 2018 The front rows are brimming with stars, nebulas, and supernovas. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Rihanna, Celine, and That Versace Deal—The 10 Biggest Stories of the Spring 2019 Season," 5 Oct. 2018 The other theory involves the interstellar clouds of dust known as nebulas. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Cosmic Oddity Challenges What We Know About Pulsars," 19 Sep. 2018 Imaging of the complex nebula that surrounds η Carinae has revealed that a giant star had ejected roughly 10 times the Sun's mass worth of material into its surroundings during what's now known as the Great Eruption. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Just what’s happened to our neighborhood’s most violent star, η Carinae?," 6 Aug. 2018 Imagine Neil deGrasse Tyson onstage exploring the origins of the universe and cloud nebula. Richard Smirke, Billboard, "MSG Ventures CEO David Dibble Talks 'Re-Writing the Rule Book' With the Next Generation Sphere Venue," 23 Mar. 2018 The models indicate that stars heat up three times faster than previous models indicated, showing that there's still enough heat from stars the size of our sun to light up a nebula. David Freeman /, NBC News, "Now we know what will happen when the sun dies," 10 May 2018

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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Last Updated

1 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for nebula

The first known use of nebula was in 1718

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More Definitions for nebula



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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