1. a brilliant electric spark discharge in the atmosphere, occurring within a thundercloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.

verb (used without object), light·ninged, light·ning.

  1. to emit a flash or flashes of lightning (often used impersonally with it as subject): If it starts to lightning, we’d better go inside.


  1. of, relating to, or resembling lightning, especially in regard to speed of movement: lightning flashes; lightning speed.


  1. a flash of light in the sky, occurring during a thunderstorm and caused by a discharge of electricity, either between clouds or between a cloud and the earthRelated adjectives: fulgurous, fulminous
  2. (modifier) fast and suddena lightning raid

n.late 13c., present participle of lightnen “make bright,” extended form of Old English lihting, from leht (see light (n.)). Meaning “cheap, raw whiskey” is attested from 1781, also sometimes “gin.” Lightning bug is attested from 1778. Lightning rod from 1790.

  1. A flash of light in the sky caused by an electrical discharge between clouds or between a cloud and the Earth’s surface. The flash heats the air and usually causes thunder. Lightning may appear as a jagged streak, as a bright sheet, or in rare cases, as a glowing red ball.

An electrical discharge from clouds that have acquired an electrical charge, usually occurring during storms. (See thunder.) In addition to the idiom beginning with lightning

  • lightning never strikes twice in the same place
  • also see:

  • like greased lightning
  • quick as a wink (lightning)
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