su·​per·​no·​va ˌsü-pər-ˈnō-və How to pronounce supernova (audio)
: the explosion of a star in which the star may reach a maximum intrinsic luminosity one billion times that of the sun
: one that explodes into prominence or popularity
also : superstar

Did you know?

A nova, despite its name, isn't actually a "new" star, but rather one that wasn't noticed until it exploded, when it may increase in brightness by a million times before returning to its previous state a few days later. A supernova is far larger; a star in its supernova state may emit a billion times as much light as previously. After a few weeks it begins to dim, until it eventually ceases to exist; it's often replaced by a black hole. (Though remains that were shot out into space may survive; those of a great supernova seen in A.D. 1054 are now known as the Crab Nebula.) All this may serve as a warning to those human stars whose fame explodes too rapidly; supernovas of this kind have sometimes vanished by the following year.

Examples of supernova in a Sentence

tragically, a shoulder injury cut short the pitching career of one of baseball's brightest supernovas
Recent Examples on the Web The explosions unleashed by supernovas are among the strongest known in the world. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 10 Jan. 2024 Read More: How Many Ways Can the Sun Kill Us? While violent, supernovas are very important for the genesis of the elements created in the massive explosions. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 10 Jan. 2024 Lensed supernovas could also be promising tools for investigating dark energy and dark matter. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 12 June 2023 Despite their ubiquity, the origins of those celestial sparks remain a mystery, although supernovas and ordinary stars like our sun are suspected to be prime sources. Bill Gourgey, Popular Science, 23 Nov. 2023 Photograph: Tod Lauer The first was that Fan’s galaxies started off filled with standard, roughly stellar-mass black holes of the sort supernovas often leave behind. WIRED, 5 Nov. 2023 The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has brought us marvelous images of whirlpool galaxies, supernovas and even questionable space phenomena. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 12 Sep. 2023 The dissolution of Nagorno-Karabakh as a breakaway state is a seminal point — a rare supernova among the constellation of ethnic conflicts left by the implosion of the then-Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Matt Bradley, NBC News, 28 Sep. 2023 But even as days shorten and fall begins, festivals in the D.C. area are going out like a supernova with a handful of the year’s most exciting lineups. Chris Kelly, Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'supernova.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


New Latin

First Known Use

1932, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of supernova was in 1932

Dictionary Entries Near supernova

Cite this Entry

“Supernova.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


su·​per·​no·​va ˌsü-pər-ˈnō-və How to pronounce supernova (audio)
: the explosion of a very large star in which the star temporarily gives off up to one billion times more energy than the sun

More from Merriam-Webster on supernova

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