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 vivid colors of the nebula are due to the radiation given off by the juvenile stars. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Telescope captures cosmic Seagull Nebula in flight," 7 Aug. 2019 Over the course of thousands of years, gravity causes pockets of dense matter inside the nebula to collapse under their own weight. Catherine Zuckerman, National Geographic, "Everything you wanted to know about stars," 20 Mar. 2019 That became my best opportunity for special photos, and the nebula-like blooms proved stunning. Eric Adams, Popular Mechanics, "Here's What It Looked Like to Watch the World's Most Powerful Rocket Launch," 25 June 2019 It is illuminated by the young stars nestled in its core — despite being shrouded by opaque clouds of dust, their bright rays still illuminate the nebula. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Hubble spies a spiral galaxy blooming like roses 70 million light-years away," 8 July 2019 Hubble’s latest observations: exoplanets, astrophysical jets and the bubble nebula. Mark Dawidziak,, "Apollo 11 anniversary fuels two-week run of space programming," 5 July 2019 The observatory will be open for viewing of planets, galaxies, nebulas and double stars, weather permitting. Dewayne Bevil,, "Orlando Science Center: Stargazing, DIY mouse-ear headband sessions set for late-night event," 2 July 2019 There are four colors to choose from: white marble, black, blue nebula, and opal. Cameron Faulkner, The Verge, "Google’s loud Home Max speaker is $40 off for Verge readers," 15 June 2019 Lupus 3 is far from the only dark nebula up in the sky. Mika Mckinnon, Smithsonian, "Dark Nebula Hides a Brilliant Streak of Baby Stars," 31 Jan. 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

16 Aug 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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More from Merriam-Webster on nebula

Spanish Central: Translation of nebula

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

Comments on nebula

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


not constant or steady

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