AskDefine | Define thunder

Dictionary Definition



1 a deep prolonged loud noise [syn: boom, roar, roaring]
2 a booming or crashing noise caused by air expanding along the path of a bolt of lightning
3 street names for heroin [syn: big H, hell dust, nose drops, smack]


1 move fast, noisily, and heavily; "The bus thundered down the road"
2 utter words loudly and forcefully; "`Get out of here,' he roared" [syn: roar]
3 be the case that thunder is being heard; "Whenever it thunders, my dog crawls under the bed" [syn: boom]
4 to make or produce a loud noise; "The river thundered below"; "The engine roared as the driver pushed the car to full throttle"

User Contributed Dictionary



þunor. Compare Persian (tondar).


  • a UK: /ˈθʌn.də/, /"TVnd@/
  • a US: , /ˈθʌn.dɚ/, /"TVnd@`/
  • Rhymes with: -ʌndə(r)


  1. The sound caused by the discharge of atmospheric electrical charge.
    Thunder is preceded by lightning.
  2. A sound resembling thunder.
  3. A deep, rumbling noise.
    Off in the distance, he heard the thunder of hoofbeats, signalling a stampede.''

Usage notes

  • roll, clap, peal are some of the words used to count thunder.


the sound caused by the discharge of atmospheric electrical charge
a sound resembling thunder
a deep, rumbling noise


  1. In the context of "intransitive": To make a noise like thunder.
  2. In the context of "intransitive": To talk with a loud, threatening voice.
  3. In the context of "transitive": To say (something) with a loud, threatening voice.

Derived terms


to make a noise like thunder
to talk with a loud, threatening voice
transitive: say something with a loud, threatening voice
  • Japanese: 怒鳴る

Extensive Definition

Thunder is the sound made by lightning. Depending on the nature of the lightning and distance of the hearer, it can range from a sharp, loud crack to a long, low rumble. The sudden increase in pressure and temperature from lightning produces rapid expansion of the air surrounding and within a bolt of lightning. In turn, this expansion of air creates a sonic shock wave which produces the sound of thunder.

The cause of thunder

The cause of thunder has been the subject of centuries of speculation and scientific inquiry. The first recorded theory is attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle in the third century BC, and an early speculation was that it was caused by the collision of clouds. Subsequently, numerous other theories have been proposed. By the mid-19th century, the accepted theory was that lightning produced a vacuum. In the 20th century a consensus evolved that thunder must begin with a shock wave in the air due to the sudden thermal expansion of the plasma in the lightning channel. In a fraction of a second the air is heated to a temperature approaching 28,000 °C (50,000 °F). This heating causes it to expand outward, plowing into the surrounding cooler air at a speed faster than sound would travel in that cooler air. The outward-moving pulse that results is a shock wave, similar in principle to the shock wave formed by an explosion, or at the front of a supersonic aircraft. More recently, this consensus has been eroded by the observation that measured overpressures in simulated lightning are greater than what could be achieved by the amount of heating found. Alternative proposals rely on electrodynamic effects of the massive current acting on the plasma in the bolt of lightning.


The d in thunder is epenthetic, and is now found in Modern Dutch donder, from earlier Old English þunor, Middle Dutch donre, together with Old Norse þorr, Old Frisian þuner, Old High German donar descended from Proto-Germanic *þunraz. In Latin it's tonare "to thunder" (see also tornado). The name of the Germanic god Thor comes from the Old Norse word for thunder.
See also:

Calculating distance

A flash of lightning, followed after some seconds by a rumble of thunder, is for many people the first illustration of the fact that sound (like light) does not travel instantaneously, and that sound is by far the slower. Using this difference, one can estimate how far away the bolt of lightning is by timing the interval between seeing the flash and hearing thunder. The speed of sound in air is approximately 344 m/s or 1130 feet per second or 762 mph. The speed of light can be assumed to be infinite in this calculation because one must know that there has been a lightning strike before starting counting (based on the fact that human reaction takes aprox 0.5 seconds). Therefore, the lightning is approximately one kilometer distant for every 2.9 seconds (or one mile for every 4.6 seconds). In the same five seconds the light could have circled the globe 37 times. Thunder is seldom heard at distances over 24 kilometers (15 miles).
A flash of lightning and a simultaneous sharp "clap!" of thunder, a thunderclap, indicates that the lightning strike was very near.

Fear of thunder

Fear of thunder is known as astraphobia.


External links

thunder in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Þunor (weder)
thunder in Azerbaijani: İldırım
thunder in Catalan: Tro
thunder in Czech: Hrom
thunder in German: Donner
thunder in Spanish: Trueno
thunder in Esperanto: Tondro
thunder in French: Tonnerre
thunder in Western Frisian: Tonger (ûnwaar)
thunder in Korean: 천둥
thunder in Indonesian: Guruh
thunder in Italian: Tuono
thunder in Hebrew: רעם
thunder in Latin: Tonitrus
thunder in Lithuanian: Griaustinis
thunder in Macedonian: Гром
thunder in Dutch: Donder
thunder in Japanese: 雷#雷鳴
thunder in Norwegian Nynorsk: Torebrak
thunder in Polish: Grom dźwiękowy
thunder in Russian: Гром
thunder in Simple English: Thunder
thunder in Slovak: Hrom
thunder in Yiddish: דונער
thunder in Samogitian: Dundūlis
thunder in Chinese: 雷

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bedlam let loose, Donar, Indra, Jupiter Tonans, Thor, awake the dead, bark, bawl, bedlam, bellow, blare, blare forth, blast, blast the ear, blat, blaze, blaze abroad, blazon, blazon about, blubber, bobbery, boom, booming, brawl, bray, breathe, brouhaha, buzz, cackle, celebrate, chant, charivari, chirm, chirp, clamor, clangor, clap, clatter, commotion, coo, crack, cracking, crash, crashing, crescendo, crow, cry, cry out, deafen, declaim, deep, denounce, din, discord, donnybrook, drawl, dread rattling thunder, drunken brawl, dustup, echo, exclaim, execrate, explode, explosion, fill the air, flap, flute, fracas, free-for-all, fulminate against, fulmination, gasp, growl, growling, grumble, grumbling, grunt, hell broke loose, herald, herald abroad, hiss, howl, hubbub, hue and cry, hullabaloo, intimidate, jangle, keen, lilt, loud noise, menace, mumble, murmur, mutter, noise, noise and shouting, outcry, pandemonium, pant, peal, peal of thunder, pealing, pipe, proclaim, promulgate, racket, rail at, rattle, rattle the windows, reboation, rebound, reecho, rend the air, rend the ears, resound, resounding, reverberate, reverberation, rhubarb, ring, rise, roar, roaring, rock the sky, roll, row, ruckus, ruction, rumble, rumbling, rumpus, scream, screech, shindy, shivaree, shout, shriek, sibilate, sigh, sing, snap, snarl, snort, sob, split the eardrums, split the ears, squall, squawk, squeal, startle the echoes, stun, surge, swear at, swell, threaten, thunder forth, thunderclap, thundercrack, thundering, thunderpeal, thundershower, thundersquall, thunderstorm, thunderstroke, tintamarre, trumpet, trumpet forth, tumult, twang, uproar, wail, warble, whine, whisper, yap, yawp, yell, yelp
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