• synonyms

aurora borealis

[bawr-ee-al-is, -ey-lis, bohr-]
noun Meteorology.
  1. the aurora of the Northern Hemisphere.
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Origin of aurora borealis

1621; < New Latin: northern aurora; see boreal
Also called northern lights, aurora polaris.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for aurora borealis

Historical Examples

  • Such kind of talk, wherever it may be, is only like the aurora-borealis, or like dissolving views which for the moment please.


    John Bate

British Dictionary definitions for aurora borealis

aurora borealis

  1. (sometimes capital) the aurora seen around the North PoleAlso called: northern lights
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Word Origin

C17: New Latin: northern aurora
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 aurora borealis


1620s, "Northern Lights," literally "northern dawn," said to have been coined by French philosopher Petrus Gassendus (1592-1655) after a spectacular display seen in France Sept. 2, 1621; see aurora + boreal. In northern Scotland and among sailors, sometimes called the dancers or the merry dancers.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

aurora borealis in Culture

aurora borealis

[(uh-rawr-uh bawr-ee-al-is)]

A display of colored lights in the sky, also called northern lights, caused by the interaction of particles from the sun with the upper atmosphere near the North Pole. A similar display, called the aurora australis, occurs in the atmosphere above the South Pole.

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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.