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From light(e)n +‎ -ing.



lightning (usually uncountable, plural lightnings)

  1. A flash of light produced by short-duration, high-voltage discharge of electricity within a cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the earth.
    Although we did not see the lightning, we did hear the thunder.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Job 38:35:
      Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?
    • 1901, E. L. Morris, The Child's Eden, page 16:
      It was the thought of hot July and August days, when the clouds piled up like woolly mountains, and lightnings streaked the sky.
    • 2021 October 13, Genshin Impact, v2.2, miHoYo, iOS, Android, Windows, PS4, level/area: The Sun-Wheel and Mt. Kanna:
      "Ruu": The adults in the village all said that children like me could calm the lightning and turn the storms into timely rain.
  2. A discharge of this kind.
    The lightning was hot enough to melt the sand.
    That tree was hit by lightning.
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], 2nd edition, part 1, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire, London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act III, scene ii:
      Auster and Aquilon with winged Steeds
      All ſweating, tilt about the watery heauens,
      With ſhiuering ſpeares enforcing thunderclaps,
      And from their ſhields ſtrike flames of lightening
    • 1881, Daniel Pierce Thompson, The Green Mountain Boys, page 281:
      The rain at length ceased; and the lightnings, as they played along the black parapet of clouds, that lay piled in the east, shone with less dazzling fierceness, []
  3. (figuratively) Anything that moves very fast.
  4. Obsolete form of lightening.[1]

Usage notes[edit]


  • 2008, Kathy Clark, Stand By Your Man, page 280:
    Manny drove a few miles per hour under the speed limit, entranced by the awesome display of lightning streaking out of the clouds toward earth.

Coordinate terms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]



lightning (not comparable)

  1. Extremely fast or sudden; moving (as if) at the speed of lightning.
    • 2018, Nader Uskowi, Temperature Rising, page 69:
      The insurgents then began their lightning advance along the Euphrates in the Sunni heartland toward Baghdad.



lightning (third-person singular simple present lightnings, present participle lightninging, simple past and past participle lightninged)

  1. (impersonal, childish or nonstandard, intransitive) To produce lightning.
    • 1916, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Understood Betsy:
      Or if it thundered and lightninged, Aunt Frances always dropped everything she might be doing and held Elizabeth Ann tightly in her arms until it was all over.
    • 1968, Dan Greenburg, Chewsday: a sex novel:
      The next day, though it is not only raining but thundering and lightninging as well, antiquing is seen by three-fourths of those present as a lesser evil than free play.
    • 1987, Tricia Springstubb, Eunice Gottlieb and the unwhitewashed truth about life:
      "Hey!" yelled Reggie, pulling her back. "Get in here! It's lightninging. I don't want a charcoal-broiled friend!"
    • 1988, Carlo Collodi, Roberto Innocenti, The adventures of Pinocchio:
      I don't know, Father, but believe me, it has been a horrible night — one that I'll never forget. It thundered and lightninged, and I was very hungry.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The standard, but rare, verb for "produce lightning" is lighten, used only in the impersonal form "it lightens", or as "it’s lightening".