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[thuhn-der] /ˈθʌn dər/
a loud, explosive, resounding noise produced by the explosive expansion of air heated by a lightning discharge.
any loud, resounding noise:
the thunder of applause.
a threatening or startling utterance, denunciation, or the like.
verb (used without object)
to give forth thunder (often used impersonally with it as the subject):
It thundered last night.
to make a loud, resounding noise like thunder:
The artillery thundered in the hills.
to utter loud or vehement denunciations, threats, or the like.
to speak in a very loud tone.
to move or go with a loud noise or violent action:
The train thundered through the village.
verb (used with object)
to strike, drive, inflict, give forth, etc., with loud noise or violent action.
steal someone's thunder,
  1. to use for one's own purposes and without the knowledge or permission of the originator the inventions or ideas of another.
  2. to ruin or detract from the effect of a performance, remark, etc., by anticipating it.
before 900; (noun) Middle English thonder, thunder, Old English thunor; cognate with Dutch donder, German Donner; Old Norse thōrr Thor, literally, thunder; (v.) Middle English thondren, Old English thunrian, derivative of the v.; akin to Latin tonāre to thunder
Related forms
thunderer, noun
thunderless, adjective
outthunder, verb (used with object) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for thunder
  • At first he thought it was someone at the door, but when the sound rolled down on the parish again, he knew it was thunder.
  • Instead, it generates sound much as lightning produces thunder.
  • The eagle swivels her head to find the source of the strange, meaningless thunder, the incomprehensible sound.
  • The ubiquity of digital spectacles and curiosities today is one reason performance art has had its thunder stolen.
  • Semicolon, if it's sounds of thunder you crave, move here.
  • The arc heats the air surrounding it and causes that air to expand rapidly, producing a shock wave that is heard as thunder.
  • Since people can't easily get inside thunder and lightning storms, no one knows exactly how they form, he added.
  • It was about the size of a baseball and shot up into the clouds, there was a huge clap of thunder that almost knocked me down.
  • Pigs may thunder past us in herds, and occasionally bears chase us back onto the road.
  • Let them steal the thunder from the leaders for less government,more equity for havenots.
British Dictionary definitions for thunder


a loud cracking or deep rumbling noise caused by the rapid expansion of atmospheric gases which are suddenly heated by lightning
any loud booming sound
(rare) a violent threat or denunciation
steal someone's thunder, to detract from the attention due to another by forestalling him or her
to make (a loud sound) or utter (words) in a manner suggesting thunder
(intransitive; with it as subject) to be the case that thunder is being heard
(intransitive) to move fast and heavily: the bus thundered downhill
(intransitive) to utter vehement threats or denunciation; rail
Derived Forms
thunderer, noun
thundery, adjective
Word Origin
Old English thunor; related to Old Saxon thunar, Old High German donar, Old Norse thōrr; see Thor, Thursday
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 thunder

Old English þunor, from Proto-Germanic *thunraz (cf. Old Norse þorr, Old Frisian thuner, Middle Dutch donre, Dutch donder, Old High German donar, German Donner "thunder"), from PIE *(s)tene- "to resound, thunder" (cf. Sanskrit tanayitnuh "thundering," Persian tundar "thunder," Latin tonare "to thunder"). Swedish tordön is literally "Thor's din." The intrusive -d- is also found in Dutch and Icelandic versions of the word.


Old English þunrian, from the source of thunder (n.). Figurative sense of "to speak loudly, threateningly, bombastically" is recorded from mid-14c. Related: Thundered; thundering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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thunder in Science
The explosive noise that accompanies a stroke of lightning. Thunder is a series of sound waves produced by the rapid expansion of the air through which the lightning passes. Sound travels about 1 km in 3 seconds (about 1 mi in 5 seconds). The distance between an observer and a lightning flash can be calculated by counting the number of seconds between the flash and the thunder. See Note at lightning.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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thunder in Culture

thunder definition

The noise created when air rushes back into a region from which it has been expelled by the passage of lightning.

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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thunder in the Bible

often referred to in Scripture (Job 40:9; Ps. 77:18; 104:7). James and John were called by our Lord "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). In Job 39:19, instead of "thunder," as in the Authorized Version, the Revised Version translates (ra'amah) by "quivering main" (marg., "shaking"). Thunder accompanied the giving of the law at Sinai (Ex. 19:16). It was regarded as the voice of God (Job 37:2; Ps. 18:13; 81:7; comp. John 12:29). In answer to Samuel's prayer (1 Sam. 12:17, 18), God sent thunder, and "all the people greatly feared," for at such a season (the wheat-harvest) thunder and rain were almost unknown in Palestine.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with thunder


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for thunder

sound caused by a lightning discharge. Lightning heats the air in its path and causes a large over-pressure of the air within its channel. The channel expands supersonically into the surrounding air as a shock wave and creates an acoustic signal that is heard as thunder. The loudest thunder heard after a flash to the ground is actually produced by the return stroke that follows the path forged by the initial stroke, or stepped leader. The return stroke is louder because it contains a larger and faster-rising electric current than either the leader or a discharge within a cloud. Because the path of a lightning channel is usually branched, tortuous, and very long, sound waves from more distant portions arrive later than those from nearer portions, accounting for the duration of thunder and for the characteristic claps and rumbles. The distance to a flash can be estimated by measuring the time delay between the flash of light and the thunder-the formula being about three seconds for each kilometre (or five seconds for each mile). Thunder is seldom heard at distances greater than about 20 km (12 miles). See also thunderstorm.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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