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[reyn-boh] /ˈreɪnˌboʊ/
a bow or arc of prismatic colors appearing in the heavens opposite the sun and caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays in drops of rain.
a similar bow of colors, especially one appearing in the spray of a waterfall or fountain.
any brightly multicolored arrangement or display.
a wide variety or range; gamut.
a visionary goal:
He pursued the rainbow of a singing career for years before becoming a success.
having a diverse membership; including representatives from multiple racial and ethnic groups:
a rainbow coalition of minority groups.
Origin of rainbow
before 1000; Middle English reinbowe, Old English regnboga; cognate with Old Norse regnbogi, German Regenbogen. See rain, bow2
Related forms
rainbowy, rainbowlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for rainbow
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And in his affection for Philae there is, I think, nearly always a rainbow strain of romance.

    The Spell of Egypt Robert Hichens
  • She has faded away like a rainbow—like a drop of dew in the sun.

    Green Mansions W. H. Hudson
  • The colors of the rainbow shimmered in the light from the star, and it pulsed faintly like a beating heart.

    Shaman Robert Shea
  • No one dared to use the rainbow but Iris, to whom it had been given by Jupiter.

    Classic Myths Mary Catherine Judd
  • They cut across the rainbow and shoot into the rose- and pearl-washed sky, and drop—into the depths of a soot-clogged chimney!

    A Watcher in The Woods Dallas Lore Sharp
British Dictionary definitions for rainbow


a bow-shaped display in the sky of the colours of the spectrum, caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays through rain or mist
  1. any similar display of bright colours
  2. (as modifier): a rainbow pattern
an illusory hope: to chase rainbows
(modifier) of or relating to a political grouping together by several minorities, esp of different races: the rainbow coalition


a member of the Rainbow Guides, the youngest group of girls (aged 5-7 years) in The Guide Association
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for rainbow

Old English renboga; see rain (n.) + bow (n.). Common Germanic compound (cf. Old Frisian reinboga, Old Norse regnbogi, Swedish regenbåge, Dutch regenboog, German Regenbogen). Rainbow trout (1876, American English) so called for its resplendent colors. Old English also had scurboga "shower-bow."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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rainbow in Science

An arc-shaped spectrum of color seen in the sky opposite the Sun, especially after rain, caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight by droplets of water suspended in the air. Secondary rainbows that are larger and paler sometimes appear within the primary arc with the colors reversed (red being inside). These result from two reflections and refractions of a light ray inside a droplet.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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rainbow in Culture

rainbow definition

The colored arch in the sky that is often seen after a rain. The rainbow is formed when water droplets in the air cause the diffraction of sunlight.

Note: The colors of the rainbow are violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.
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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rainbow in the Bible

caused by the reflection and refraction of the rays of the sun shining on falling rain. It was appointed as a witness of the divine faithfulness (Gen. 9:12-17). It existed indeed before, but it was then constituted as a sign of the covenant. Others, however (as Delitzsch, Commentary on Pentateuch), think that it "appeared then for the first time in the vault and clouds of heaven." It is argued by those holding this opinion that the atmosphere was differently constituted before the Flood. It is referred to three other times in Scripture (Ezek. 1:27, 28; Rev. 4:1-3; 10:1).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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