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[thuhn-der] /ˈθʌn dər/
a loud, explosive, resounding noise produced by the explosive expansion of air heated by a lightning discharge.
any loud, resounding noise:
the thunder of applause.
a threatening or startling utterance, denunciation, or the like.
verb (used without object)
to give forth thunder (often used impersonally with it as the subject):
It thundered last night.
to make a loud, resounding noise like thunder:
The artillery thundered in the hills.
to utter loud or vehement denunciations, threats, or the like.
to speak in a very loud tone.
to move or go with a loud noise or violent action:
The train thundered through the village.
verb (used with object)
to strike, drive, inflict, give forth, etc., with loud noise or violent action.
steal someone's thunder,
  1. to use for one's own purposes and without the knowledge or permission of the originator the inventions or ideas of another.
  2. to ruin or detract from the effect of a performance, remark, etc., by anticipating it.
Origin of thunder
before 900; (noun) Middle English thonder, thunder, Old English thunor; cognate with Dutch donder, German Donner; Old Norse thōrr Thor, literally, thunder; (v.) Middle English thondren, Old English thunrian, derivative of the v.; akin to Latin tonāre to thunder
Related forms
thunderer, noun
thunderless, adjective
outthunder, verb (used with object) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for thunder
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And a rumble quickly grew to an earth-shaking blast of thunder.

    Dust Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius
  • Pound, pound, pound, the hard road rang with the thunder of hoofs.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • When he flaps his wings or even moves a quill the thunder peals.

  • There was no thunder nor lightning during the whole time they were in these latitudes.

  • And the thunder of galloping hoofs was more menacing than that of the cannon.

    The Rock of Chickamauga Joseph A. Altsheler
British Dictionary definitions for thunder


a loud cracking or deep rumbling noise caused by the rapid expansion of atmospheric gases which are suddenly heated by lightning
any loud booming sound
(rare) a violent threat or denunciation
steal someone's thunder, to detract from the attention due to another by forestalling him or her
to make (a loud sound) or utter (words) in a manner suggesting thunder
(intransitive; with it as subject) to be the case that thunder is being heard
(intransitive) to move fast and heavily: the bus thundered downhill
(intransitive) to utter vehement threats or denunciation; rail
Derived Forms
thunderer, noun
thundery, adjective
Word Origin
Old English thunor; related to Old Saxon thunar, Old High German donar, Old Norse thōrr; see Thor, Thursday
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 thunder

Old English þunor, from Proto-Germanic *thunraz (cf. Old Norse þorr, Old Frisian thuner, Middle Dutch donre, Dutch donder, Old High German donar, German Donner "thunder"), from PIE *(s)tene- "to resound, thunder" (cf. Sanskrit tanayitnuh "thundering," Persian tundar "thunder," Latin tonare "to thunder"). Swedish tordön is literally "Thor's din." The intrusive -d- is also found in Dutch and Icelandic versions of the word.


Old English þunrian, from the source of thunder (n.). Figurative sense of "to speak loudly, threateningly, bombastically" is recorded from mid-14c. Related: Thundered; thundering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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thunder in Science
The explosive noise that accompanies a stroke of lightning. Thunder is a series of sound waves produced by the rapid expansion of the air through which the lightning passes. Sound travels about 1 km in 3 seconds (about 1 mi in 5 seconds). The distance between an observer and a lightning flash can be calculated by counting the number of seconds between the flash and the thunder. See Note at lightning.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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thunder in Culture

thunder definition

The noise created when air rushes back into a region from which it has been expelled by the passage of lightning.

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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Idioms and Phrases with thunder


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