or·​bit·​al | \ ˈȯr-bə-tᵊl How to pronounce orbital (audio) \

Definition of orbital

: a mathematically described region around a nucleus in an atom or molecule that may contain zero, one, or two electrons

Examples of orbital in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Even if the orbitals are distorted by the surface and have different energies, the electrons just swap energy with each other as well. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Atoms spin backward while flying along a surface," 23 Sep. 2019 Some electrons are stored in atomic orbitals that look a bit like dumbbells that are at right angles to each other. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Atoms spin backward while flying along a surface," 23 Sep. 2019 There is no in-between state, no variation in frequency as would be expected if the electron was initially located in different points in these orbitals. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘Taming Quantum Weirdness’," 10 Mar. 2017 Chemistry is a sort of applied physics, with the behavior of electrons and their orbitals dictating a set of rules for which reactions can take place and what products will remain stable. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "AI plus a chemistry robot finds all the reactions that will work," 18 July 2018 Not mere Center City orbitals, these nonprofit suburban theaters are their own heavenly bodies, with their own individual fields of gravity. John Timpane, Philly.com, "Surprise: There's good theater in the Philly suburbs," 13 Apr. 2018

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

1932, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for orbital

derivative of orbital

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Time Traveler for orbital

Time Traveler

The first known use of orbital was in 1932

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Statistics for orbital

Last Updated

13 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Orbital.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orbital. Accessed 15 December 2019.

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More Definitions for orbital


How to pronounce orbital (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of orbital

British : a highway that goes around a city


or·​bit·​al | \ ˈȯr-bət-ᵊl How to pronounce orbital (audio) \

Medical Definition of orbital

: a subdivision of a nuclear shell containing zero, one, or two electrons

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More from Merriam-Webster on orbital

Spanish Central: Translation of orbital

Nglish: Translation of orbital for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of orbital for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about orbital

Comments on orbital

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


delight or enjoyment

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