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[reyn-boh] /ˈreɪnˌboʊ/
a bow or arc of prismatic colors appearing in the heavens opposite the sun and caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays in drops of rain.
a similar bow of colors, especially one appearing in the spray of a waterfall or fountain.
any brightly multicolored arrangement or display.
a wide variety or range; gamut.
a visionary goal:
He pursued the rainbow of a singing career for years before becoming a success.
having a diverse membership; including representatives from multiple racial and ethnic groups:
a rainbow coalition of minority groups.
Origin of rainbow
before 1000; Middle English reinbowe, Old English regnboga; cognate with Old Norse regnbogi, German Regenbogen. See rain, bow2
Related forms
rainbowy, rainbowlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for rainbow
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The Oreades had music written on scrolls, in all the colours of the rainbow.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • She has faded away like a rainbow—like a drop of dew in the sun.

    Green Mansions W. H. Hudson
  • No one dared to use the rainbow but Iris, to whom it had been given by Jupiter.

    Classic Myths Mary Catherine Judd
  • Notice a rainbow, when possible, and form one with a prism in the schoolroom.

    Classic Myths Mary Catherine Judd
  • Like all explorers he was unhappy over his lot and looked beyond the rainbow.

    Spacemen Never Die! Morris Hershman
British Dictionary definitions for rainbow


a bow-shaped display in the sky of the colours of the spectrum, caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays through rain or mist
  1. any similar display of bright colours
  2. (as modifier): a rainbow pattern
an illusory hope: to chase rainbows
(modifier) of or relating to a political grouping together by several minorities, esp of different races: the rainbow coalition


a member of the Rainbow Guides, the youngest group of girls (aged 5-7 years) in The Guide Association
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 rainbow

Old English renboga; see rain (n.) + bow (n.). Common Germanic compound (cf. Old Frisian reinboga, Old Norse regnbogi, Swedish regenbåge, Dutch regenboog, German Regenbogen). Rainbow trout (1876, American English) so called for its resplendent colors. Old English also had scurboga "shower-bow."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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rainbow in Science

An arc-shaped spectrum of color seen in the sky opposite the Sun, especially after rain, caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight by droplets of water suspended in the air. Secondary rainbows that are larger and paler sometimes appear within the primary arc with the colors reversed (red being inside). These result from two reflections and refractions of a light ray inside a droplet.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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rainbow in Culture

rainbow definition

The colored arch in the sky that is often seen after a rain. The rainbow is formed when water droplets in the air cause the diffraction of sunlight.

Note: The colors of the rainbow are violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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