free fall

noun
1.
the hypothetical fall of a body such that the only force acting upon it is that of gravity.
2.
the part of a parachute jump that precedes the opening of the parachute.
3.
a decline, especially a sudden or rapid decline, as in value or prestige, that appears to be endless or bottomless: The economy was in a free fall all winter.
Also, free-fall (for defs 1, 2).


Origin:
1915–20

Dictionary.com Unabridged

free-fall

[free-fawl]
verb (used without object), free-fell, free-fallen, free-falling.
1.
(of parachutists) to descend initially, as for a designated interval, in a free fall: The jumpers were required to free-fall for eight seconds.
adjective
2.
denoting or suggesting a free fall: a free-fall recession.
noun
3.
free fall ( defs 1, 2 ).
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
free fall
 
n
1.  free descent of a body in which the gravitational force is the only force acting on it
2.  the part of a parachute descent before the parachute opens

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

free fall definition


In physics, the motion of a body being acted upon only by gravity. A satellite in orbit is in free fall, as is a skydiver (if we neglect the effects of air resistance).

Note: During free fall, objects are said to be weightless.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

free fall

A rapid, uncontrolled decline, as in The markets threatened to go into free fall and we came close to outright panic. This term transfers the aeronautical meaning of a free fall, that is, "a fall through the air without any impedance, such as a parachute," to other kinds of precipitous drop. [Second half of 1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Then it can free fall until it reaches terminal velocity where the air
  resistance matches the pull of gravity.
And now planets are even being found in free fall within our galaxy.
Being in free fall, however, the astronaut is not crushed by this acceleration.
What followed was a kind of free fall into what sociologists call social
  disorganization.
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