• synonyms

heat lightning

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
  1. lightning too distant for thunder to be heard, observed as diffuse flashes near the horizon on summer evenings.

Origin of heat lightning

An Americanism dating back to 1825–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for heat lightning

Historical Examples

  • Then the heat-lightning smile played about the hollow face again.

    The Shadow

    Arthur Stringer

  • It reminded the other man of heat-lightning on a dark skyline.

    The Shadow

    Arthur Stringer

  • It makes you feel like heat-lightning just to watch 'em fly!

    The Port of Adventure

    Charles Norris Williamson and Alice Muriel Williamson

  • Mrs. Bolton kept a grim silence, against which her husband's babble of optimism played like heat-lightning on a night sky.

    Annie Kilburn

    William Dean Howells

  • But now and then, for an instant, the post sprang into sight out of the blackness to the weird play of the heat-lightning.

    The Plow-Woman

    Eleanor Gates

British Dictionary definitions for heat lightning

heat lightning

  1. flashes of light seen near the horizon, esp on hot evenings: reflections of more distant lightning
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

heat lightning in Science

heat lightning

  1. Intermittent flashes of reddish or orange light near the horizon, usually seen on a hot summer evening and unaccompanied by thunder. Heat lightning is thought to be the reflection of distant lightning on clouds. Its color is believed to be due to the refraction of light in the atmosphere. See also sheet lightning. See more at lightning.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.