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free fall

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noun
  1. the hypothetical fall of a body such that the only force acting upon it is that of gravity.
  2. the part of a parachute jump that precedes the opening of the parachute.
  3. a decline, especially a sudden or rapid decline, as in value or prestige, that appears to be endless or bottomless: The economy was in a free fall all winter.
Also free-fall (for defs 1, 2).

Origin of free fall

First recorded in 1915–20

free-fall

[free-fawl]
verb (used without object), free-fell, free-fall·en, free-fall·ing.
  1. (of parachutists) to descend initially, as for a designated interval, in a free fall: The jumpers were required to free-fall for eight seconds.
adjective
  1. denoting or suggesting a free fall: a free-fall recession.
noun
  1. free fall(def 1, 2).
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for freefall

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I fell, spun, plunged head over heels through tilting lights and shadows that flung us through eternities of freefall.

    The Door Through Space

    Marion Zimmer Bradley


British Dictionary definitions for freefall

free fall

noun
  1. free descent of a body in which the gravitational force is the only force acting on it
  2. the part of a parachute descent before the parachute opens
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

Word Origin and History for freefall

also free fall, free-fall, 1919, originally of parachutists and in rocketry, from free (adj.) + fall (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

freefall in Culture

free fall

In physics, the motion of a body being acted upon only by gravity. A satellite in orbit is in free fall, as is a skydiver (if we neglect the effects of air resistance).

Note

During free fall, objects are said to be weightless.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with freefall

free fall

A rapid, uncontrolled decline, as in The markets threatened to go into free fall and we came close to outright panic. This term transfers the aeronautical meaning of a free fall, that is, “a fall through the air without any impedance, such as a parachute,” to other kinds of precipitous drop. [Second half of 1900s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.