neb·​u·​la | \ ˈne-byə-lə How to pronounce nebula (audio) \
plural nebulae\ ˈne-​byə-​ˌlē How to pronounce nebula (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 nebula (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 This became a pulsar, or rapidly spinning neutron star, in the nebula that could be as much as hundreds of times more energetic than researchers previously believed, according to a study published last week in the journal Science. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Quest to land humans on Mars heats up and 5 other top space and science stories this week," 17 Apr. 2021 Her hair is a luminescent gray — less like an overcast sky, more like a dusty nebula. Brennan Kilbane, Allure, "CL Would Like to Reintroduce Herself," 16 Apr. 2021 In addition to stars and nebula clouds, this model can even project ocean waves onto your walls and ceiling. Maren Estrada, BGR, "People are flipping out about this $31 gadget from Amazon that went viral on TikTok," 23 Mar. 2021 The closest region of our Milky Way galaxy to us where stars are now being born, the Orion Nebula is the brightest nebula and is easily visible right now to the naked eye. Jamie Carter, Forbes, "This Week It’s Possible To See All Of The Night Sky’s Greatest Objects. Here Are 5 You Can See With Your Naked Eyes," 10 Mar. 2021 The brightest star in this image belongs to Orion’s belt, and to its right lies the ominous black cloud of the Horsehead nebula. Leslie Nemo, Scientific American, "Stunning Astronomy Photographs Look like They’re Shot from Space," 3 Mar. 2021 The first planetesimals in our early solar system formed when dust in the solar nebula accreted into kilometer-sized undifferentiated celestial bodies. David Bressan, Forbes, "4.6-Billion-Year-Old Meteorite Is The Oldest Magmatic Rock Ever Found," 10 Mar. 2021 And as a result, more mesmerizing and outré, like some kind of musical nebula. Ben Flanagan |, al, "Here are Alabama’s 2020 Entertainers of the Year," 31 Dec. 2020 Like a night light for big kids, the small device projects a galaxy of vivid stars (not to mention a nebula cloud) onto the ceiling or wall, perfect for lulling your teen to sleep or providing an ultra-cool backdrop to a sleepover. Courtney Thompson, CNN Underscored, "37 gifts even the coolest teens will love," 3 Dec. 2020

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

26 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nebula.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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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 nebula (audio) , -​ˌlī How to pronounce nebula (audio) \

Medical Definition of nebula

: a slight cloudy opacity of the cornea

More from Merriam-Webster on nebula

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

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