Trend Watch

US Drops Largest Nonnuclear Bomb in Afghanistan

'Not nuclear'

Nonnuclear was among our top lookups on April 13th, 2017, after the United States military dropped an exceedingly large bomb in Afghanistan.

The MOAB is also known as the "mother of all bombs." A MOAB is a 21,600-pound, GPS-guided munition that is America's most powerful non-nuclear bomb.
—Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, CNN (, 13 Apr. 2017

Nonnuclear is now most often employed in the sense “not nuclear,” referring specifically to nuclear weapons or energy, a sense which came about in the mid-1940s. The word was formerly used in the 19th century (well before the advent of nuclear weaponry) to mean “not having a nucleus.”

The bomb in question, the MOAB, is an acronym which has two proposed explanations: it stands for Massive Ordnance Air Burst, and also Mother of All Bombs.

It is unclear what the relationship is between "Massive Ordnance," as described by Ulrich as a 20,000 to 30,000 pound with several variants, and the technology development program for "Massive Ordnance Air Burst" (MOAB), also known as the "Mother of all bombs," which is described by the Air Force as merely an improvement to the 15,000-pound BLU-82 Commando Vault bomb.
—Neil Baumgardner, Defense Daily, 18 Feb. 2003

Trend Watch tracks and reports on the words that people are looking up. You can see all the Trend Watch articles here.

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