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[buh-loon] /bəˈlun/
a bag made of thin rubber or other light material, usually brightly colored, inflated with air or with some lighter-than-air gas and used as a children's plaything or as a decoration.
a bag made of a light material, as silk or plastic, filled with heated air or a gas lighter than air, designed to rise and float in the atmosphere and often having a car or gondola attached below for carrying passengers or scientific instruments.
(in drawings, cartoons, etc.) a balloon-shaped outline enclosing words represented as issuing from the mouth of the speaker.
an ornamental ball at the top of a pillar, pier, or the like.
a large, globular wineglass.
Chemistry Now Rare. a round-bottomed flask.
verb (used without object)
to go up or ride in a balloon.
to swell or puff out like a balloon.
to multiply or increase at a rapid rate:
Membership has ballooned beyond all expectations.
verb (used with object)
to fill with air; inflate or distend (something) like a balloon.
puffed out like a balloon:
balloon sleeves.
Finance. (of a loan, mortgage, or the like) having a payment at the end of the term that is much bigger than previous ones.
Origin of balloon
1570-80; < Upper Italian ballone, equivalent to ball(a) (< Langobardic; see ball1) + -one augmentative suffix; or < Middle French ballon < Upper Italian
Related forms
balloonlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for balloon
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The only reason why we did not tell of the balloon, was on account of the fire.

    The Talisman Anonymous
  • Say, when Boggsie saw the whole gang of us, he was a balloon.

    Stanford Stories Charles K. Field
  • We were told that a man was going up in the air in a balloon.

  • "The balloon is almost ready, steering-gear and all," she said.

    Lorraine Robert W. Chambers
  • I'm certain if I was up in a balloon it would look like a map with all those funny little hedges.

    Queensland Cousins Eleanor Luisa Haverfield
British Dictionary definitions for balloon


an inflatable rubber bag of various sizes, shapes, and colours: usually used as a plaything or party decoration
a large impermeable bag inflated with a lighter-than-air gas, designed to rise and float in the atmosphere. It may have a basket or gondola for carrying passengers, etc See also barrage balloon, hot-air balloon
a circular or elliptical figure containing the words or thoughts of a character in a cartoon
  1. a kick or stroke that propels a ball high into the air
  2. (as modifier): a balloon shot
(chem) a round-bottomed flask
a large rounded brandy glass
  1. a large sum paid as an irregular instalment of a loan repayment
  2. (as modifier): a balloon loan
  1. an inflatable plastic tube used for dilating obstructed blood vessels or parts of the alimentary canal
  2. (as modifier): balloon angioplasty
(informal) go down like a lead balloon, to be completely unsuccessful or unpopular
(informal) when the balloon goes up, when the trouble or action begins
(intransitive) to go up or fly in a balloon
(intransitive) to increase or expand significantly and rapidly: losses ballooned to £278 million
to inflate or be inflated; distend; swell: the wind ballooned the sails
(transitive) (Brit) to propel (a ball) high into the air
Derived Forms
ballooning, noun
balloonist, noun
balloon-like, adjective
Word Origin
C16 (in the sense: ball, ball game): from Italian dialect ballone, from balla, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German ballaball1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for balloon

1570s, "a game played with a large inflated leather ball," from Italian pallone "large ball," from palla "ball," from a Germanic source akin to Langobardic palla (from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell;" see bole) + -one, suffix indicating great size.

Perhaps also borrowed in part from French ballon (16c.), altered (after balle) from Italian pallone. It also meant the ball itself (1590s), which was batted back and forth by means of large wooden paddles strapped to the forearms. In 17c., it also meant "a type of fireworks housed in a pasteboard ball" (1630s) and "round ball used as an architectural ornament" (1650s). Acquired modern meaning after Montgolfier brothers' flights, 1783. As a child's toy, it is attested from 1848; as "outline containing words in a comic engraving" it dates from 1844. Also cf. -oon.


"to go up in a balloon," 1792; "to swell, puff up," 1841, from balloon (n.). Related: Ballooned; ballooning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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balloon in Medicine

balloon bal·loon (bə-lōōn')
An inflatable spherical device that is inserted into a body cavity or structure and distended with air or gas for therapeutic purposes.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for balloon



  1. A hobo's bedroll; bindle (1920s+)
  2. A condom (1960s+)
  3. A dollar bill; one dollar: It'll cost you six balloons (1970s+)
  4. A platoon (1970s+ Army)
  5. The floating blob with a line to a speaker's mouth, used to show speech in comic strips (1840s+)


To lose one's lines completely during a performance; blow up, go up (1920s+ Theater)

Related Terms

lead balloon, trial balloon, when the balloon goes up

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with balloon


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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