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From light(e)n +‎ -ing.


  • IPA(key): /ˈlaɪt.nɪŋ/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈlaɪt.nɪŋ/, [ˈlʌɪ̯ʔ.nɪŋ], [ˈlɐɪ̯ʔ.nɪŋ]
    • (file)


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 964384981, 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 Inpact (in English), 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.
    • 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.
    • 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot, chapter V:
      Nobs, though, was lightning by comparison with the slow thinking beast and dodged his opponent's thrust with ease. Then he raced to the rear of the tremendous thing and seized it by the tail.
  4. The act of making bright, or the state of being made bright; enlightenment; brightening, as of the mental powers.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for lightning in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)


  • 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.

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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".