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[tawr-ney-doh] /tɔrˈneɪ doʊ/
noun, plural tornadoes, tornados.
a localized, violently destructive windstorm occurring over land, especially in the Middle West, and characterized by a long, funnel-shaped cloud extending toward the ground and made visible by condensation and debris.
Compare waterspout (def 3).
a violent squall or whirlwind of small extent, as one of those occurring during the summer on the west coast of Africa.
a violent outburst, as of emotion or activity.
(initial capital letter) Military. a supersonic, two-seat, multipurpose military aircraft produced jointly by West Germany, Britain, and Italy and capable of flying in darkness and bad weather.
Origin of tornado
1550-60; apparently by metathesis < Spanish tronada thunderstorm, noun use of feminine of tronado, past participle of tronar < Latin tonāre to thunder; replacing 16th-century ternado, with unexplained e
Related forms
[tawr-nad-ik, -ney-dik] /tɔrˈnæd ɪk, -ˈneɪ dɪk/ (Show IPA),
tornadolike, adjective
Can be confused Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tornado
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Yes,” said Mills thoughtfully, “you are not a leaf, you might have been a tornado yourself.

    The Arrow of Gold Joseph Conrad
  • Nothing is said of the occurrence of a tornado in northern Europe, in January, 1686.

    The Book of the Damned Charles Fort
  • As easy to strive with the tornado as with this wind of pain and death!

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • It lasted two and a half hours, that tornado, and it never relaxed in intensity.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • The tornado, overpassing river and plain, burst on the southern hills.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
British Dictionary definitions for tornado


noun (pl) -does, -dos
Also called cyclone, (US and Canadian informal) twister. a violent storm with winds whirling around a small area of extremely low pressure, usually characterized by a dark funnel-shaped cloud causing damage along its path
a small but violent squall or whirlwind, such as those occurring on the West African coast
any violently active or destructive person or thing
(often capital) a type of dinghy, designed to be crewed by two people
Derived Forms
tornadic (tɔːˈnædɪk) adjective
tornado-like, adjective
Word Origin
C16: probably alteration of Spanish tronada thunderstorm (from tronar to thunder, from Latin tonāre), through influence of tornar to turn, from Latin tornāre to turn in a lathe
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 tornado

1550s, navigator's word for violent windy thunderstorm in the tropical Atlantic, probably a mangled borrowing from Spanish tronada "thunderstorm," from tronar "to thunder," from Latin tonare "to thunder" (see thunder). Metathesis of -o- and -r- in modern spelling influenced by Spanish tornar "to twist, turn," from Latin tornare "to turn." Meaning "extremely violent whirlwind" is first found 1620s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tornado in Science
A violently rotating column of air extending from a cumulonimbus cloud to the Earth, ranging in width from a few meters to more than a kilometer and whirling at speeds between 64 km (40 mi) and 509 km (316 mi) per hour or higher with comparable updrafts in the center of the vortex. The vortex may contain several smaller vortices rotating within it. Tornadoes typically take the form of a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud extending downward from storm clouds, often reaching the ground, and dissolving into thin, ropelike clouds as the tornado dissipates. Tornadoes may travel from a few dozen meters to hundreds of kilometers along the ground. Tornadoes usually form in the tail end of violent thunderstorms, with weaker funnels sometimes forming in groups along a leading squall line of an advancing cold front or in areas near a hurricane. The strongest tornadoes, which may last several hours and travel hundreds of kilometers, can cause massive destruction in a relatively narrow strip along their path. The causes of tornado formation are not well understood.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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tornado in Culture

tornado definition

In meteorology, a storm in which high-speed winds move in a funnel-shaped pattern.

Note: Tornadoes occur chiefly during thunderstorms.
Note: If the tip of the funnel touches the ground, it can cause extensive damage.
Note: Tornadoes are common in the Middle West.
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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