lightning

[lahyt-ning]
noun
1.
a brilliant electric spark discharge in the atmosphere, occurring within a thundercloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.
verb (used without object), lightninged, lightning.
2.
to emit a flash or flashes of lightning (often used impersonally with it as subject): If it starts to lightning, we'd better go inside.
adjective
3.
of, pertaining to, or resembling lightning, especially in regard to speed of movement: lightning flashes; lightning speed.

Origin:
1350–1400; Middle English, variant of lightening. See lighten1, -ing1

lightening, lightning.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
lightning (ˈlaɪtnɪŋ)
 
n
1.  a flash of light in the sky, occurring during a thunderstorm and caused by a discharge of electricity, either between clouds or between a cloud and the earthRelated: fulgurous, fulminous
2.  (modifier) fast and sudden: a lightning raid
 
Related: fulgurous, fulminous
 
[C14: variant of lightening]

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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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

lightning
late 13c., prp. of lightnen "make bright," extended form of O.E. lihting, from leht (see light (n.)). Meaning "cheap, raw whiskey" is attested from 1781. Lightning bug is attested from 1778.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
lightning   (līt'nĭng)  Pronunciation Key 


(click for larger image in new window)

A flash of light in the sky caused by an electrical discharge between clouds or between a cloud and the Earth's surface. The flash heats the air and usually causes thunder. Lightning may appear as a jagged streak, as a bright sheet, or in rare cases, as a glowing red ball.

Our Living Language  : As storm clouds develop, the temperature at the top of the cloud becomes much cooler than that at the bottom. For reasons that scientists still do not understand, this temperature difference results in the accumulation of negatively charged particles near the base and positively charged particles near the top of the storm cloud. The negatively charged particles repel the electrons of atoms in nearby objects, such as the bases of other storm clouds or tall objects on the ground. Consequently, these nearby objects take on a positive charge. The difference in charge, or voltage, builds until an electric current starts to flow between the objects along a pathway of charged atoms in the air. The current flow heats up the air to such a degree that it glows, generating lightning. Initially, a bolt of lightning carrying a negative charge darts from one storm cloud to another or from a storm cloud to the ground, leaving the bottom of the cloud with a positive charge. In response, a second bolt (reverse lightning) shoots in the opposite direction (from the other storm cloud or the ground) as the mass of negative charges on it moves back to neutralize the positive charge on the bottom of the first cloud. The heat generated by the lightning causes the air to expand, in turn creating very large sound waves, or thunder.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

lightning definition


An electrical discharge from clouds that have acquired an electrical charge, usually occurring during storms. (See thunder.)

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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Easton
Bible Dictionary

Lightning definition


frequently referred to by the sacred writers (Nah. 1:3-6). Thunder and lightning are spoken of as tokens of God's wrath (2 Sam. 22:15; Job 28:26; 37:4; Ps. 135:7; 144:6; Zech. 9:14). They represent God's glorious and awful majesty (Rev. 4:5), or some judgment of God on the world (20:9).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

lightning

In addition to the idiom beginning with lightning, also see like greased lightning; quick as a wink (lightning).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
The electrical discharge in the experiment was a simulation of lightning in
  nature.
Most records of lightning are compiled by observers who listen for thunder,
  which is produced by lightning.
Perhaps more than any other top campus administrator, the chief diversity
  officer is a lightning rod for criticism.
Lightning is a particularly unsettling product of bad weather.
Image for lightning
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