the bomb

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See also: bomb, Bomb, and the Bomb


Alternative forms[edit]


Attested in reference to nuclear weapons or the capacity to use them since 1932;[1] see quotations, below. As slang for something excellent, the phrase is attested since the 1960s; compare go down a bomb, UK theatre slang during the 1950s meaning “be a major success”.[2] For further etymology see bomb.


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the bomb (usually uncountable, plural the bombs)

  1. (informal) The atomic bomb; the capability to launch a nuclear attack. Often capitalized.
    Pakistan and India both have the Bomb now.
    • 1932, Harold Nicolson, “Public Faces”, in The Spectator, volume 149, page 558:
      The Cabinet, when faced with this proffered omnipotence, had recoiled in fear. True it was that their acute distaste for the bomb [] did credit to their humanity, to their state of civilization.
    • 1962, Kwame Nkruma, The World Without the Bomb: Selections from the Papers of “the Accra Assembly”, page 3:
      In my view, the tensions which have produced the “World with the Bomb” can be divided into roughly four classes.
  2. (slang) A success; something excellent.
    Their new record is the bomb.
    That party was the bomb!
    • 1997, Sheneska Jackson, Li'l Mama's Rules, page 152:
      She’s happy, she’s found a little big-head boy who thinks she’s the bomb.

Usage notes[edit]

The two diametrical slang meanings are distinguished by the article. For “a success”, the phrase is generally the bomb. Otherwise bomb can mean “a failure”. (cf. the shit)


  1. ^ bomb, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, launched 2000.
  2. ^ Jonathon Green (2018), “bomb, n.”, in Green’s Dictionary of Slang[1], Abecedary Limited, retrieved 24 May 2018