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[bil-oh] /ˈbɪl oʊ/
a great wave or surge of the sea.
any surging mass:
billows of smoke.
verb (used without object)
to rise or roll in or like billows; surge.
to swell out, puff up, etc., as by the action of wind:
flags billowing in the breeze.
verb (used with object)
to make rise, surge, swell, or the like:
A sudden wind billowed the tent alarmingly.
Origin of billow
1545-55; < Old Norse bylgja wave, cognate with Middle Low German bulge; akin to Old English gebylgan to anger, provoke
Related forms
underbillow, verb (used without object)
1. swell, breaker, crest, roller, whitecap. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for billowed
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A moment later, bundles of metal ribbons floated out and billowed into a giant umbrella.

    The Quantum Jump Robert Wicks
  • With one hand she indicated the prairie that billowed away to the skyline.

  • And below, stretching far away to the east where it was lost in rose and purple mists, billowed the vast Val d'Elsa.

    A Little Pilgrimage in Italy Olave M. (Olave Muriel) Potter
  • She says it is because it is “billowed in another greater and gentler sort.”

  • A short fat man passed in pursuit of her—an elderly man in a black alpaca jacket that billowed.

    And Even Now Max Beerbohm
  • The floor beneath them rocked and billowed like the waves of a canvas sea.

    The Double Four E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • Stewart pulled himself to a sitting posture and stared for a moment at the cloud as it billowed in the wind.

    The Girl from Alsace Burton Egbert Stevenson
  • Uncle William beamed on the water that billowed before and behind.

    Uncle William Jennette Lee
  • Again a home is built with the fair chamber wherein faint dreams, like cool and shadowy vales, divide the billowed hours of love.

British Dictionary definitions for billowed


a large sea wave
a swelling or surging mass, as of smoke or sound
a large atmospheric wave, usually in the lee of a hill
(pl) (poetic) the sea itself
to rise up, swell out, or cause to rise up or swell out
Derived Forms
billowing, adjective, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Old Norse bylgja; related to Swedish bōlja, Danish bölg, Middle High German bulge; see bellow, belly
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 billowed



1550s, perhaps older in dialectal use, from Old Norse bylgja "a wave, a billow," from Proto-Germanic *bulgjan (cf. Middle High German bulge "billow, bag"), from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell" (see belly (n.)).


1590s, from billow (n.). Related: Billowed; billowing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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