su·​per·​no·​va | \ˌsü-pər-ˈnō-və \

Definition of supernova 

1 : the explosion of a star in which the star may reach a maximum intrinsic luminosity one billion times that of the sun

2 : one that explodes into prominence or popularity also : superstar

Keep scrolling for more

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 knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup will kick off with an explosion of supernova proportions, as two of the tournament's stratospheric names go head to head for a place in the quarter finals., "World Cup Preview: France vs Argentina - Recent Form, Team News, Predictions and More," 29 June 2018 Whether it’s cancer screenings or supernova specifics or fossil interpretation, having that history is both important and getting harder. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "What Happens When Science Just Disappears?," 25 Apr. 2018 That suggested the source was not a supernova at all, but rather a tidal disruption event (TDE), a star being torn apart by a supermassive black hole. Lee Billings, Scientific American, "Giant Black Hole Swallows a Star and Belches Out a Superfast Particle Jet," 14 June 2018 When modelers deposit the energy of a supernova in a larger grid element, not much happens: Instead of generating wind, the energy just radiates away. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Galaxy simulations are at last matching reality—and producing surprising insights into cosmic evolution," 30 May 2018 To get a better look at the supernova, the astronomers used a technique called gravitational lensing. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Meet Icarus, The Most Distant Star Yet Detected," 3 Apr. 2018 Score your first pro hat trick to give your team its first win of the season—and your new coach his first win, period—only to see your achievement overshadowed entirely by the Zlatan supernova. Brian Straus,, "MLS Tiers, Week 5: There's Zlatan and Then There's Everyone Else," 3 Apr. 2018 Inside a neutron star—the city-size, hyperdense cinder left after a supernova—modern physics plunges off the edge of the map. Joshua Sokol, Scientific American, "Gravitational Waves Reveal the Hearts of Neutron Stars," 5 June 2018 Any leftover object after a supernova that is less than 2.16 times the mass of the sun will star a neutron star, while anything more than 2.16 solar masses will become a black hole. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "Astronomers Find Mass Limit for Neutron Stars Before Collapsing Into Black Holes," 19 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'supernova.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of supernova

1932, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for supernova

New Latin

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about supernova

Statistics for supernova

Last Updated

28 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for supernova

The first known use of supernova was in 1932

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for supernova



English Language Learners Definition of supernova

astronomy : the explosion of a star that causes the star to become extremely bright

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on supernova

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


a trusted follower

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!