noun, plural bi·ki·nis.

a very brief, close-fitting, two-piece bathing suit for women or girls.
a very brief, close-fitting pair of bathing trunks for men or boys.
Often bikinis. underwear briefs that are fitted low on the hip or below it.

Origin of bikini

1945–50; < French, apparently named after Bikini




an atoll in the N Pacific, in the Marshall Islands: atomic bomb tests 1946. 3 sq. mi. (8 sq. km). Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for bikini


noun plural -nis

a woman's very brief two-piece swimming costume

Word Origin for bikini

C20: after Bikini atoll, from a comparison between the devastating effect of the atomic-bomb test and the effect caused by women wearing bikinis



an atoll in the N Pacific; one of the Marshall Islands: site of a US atomic-bomb test in 1946
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 bikini

"low-waisted two-piece women's bathing suit," 1948, from French coinage, 1947, named for U.S. A-bomb test of June 1946 on Bikini, Marshall Islands atoll, locally Pikinni and said to derive from pik "surface" and ni "coconut," but this is uncertain. Various explanations for the swimsuit name have been suggested, none convincingly, the best being an analogy of the explosive force of the bomb and the impact of the bathing suit style on men's libidos (cf. c.1900 British slang assassin "an ornamental bow worn on the female breast," so called because it was very "killing").

Bikini, ce mot cinglant comme l'explosion même ... correspondant au niveau du vêtement de plage à on anéantissement de la surface vêtue; à une minimisation extrême de la pudeur. [Le Monde, 1947]

As a style of scanty briefs, from 1960. Variant trikini (1967), with separate bra cups held on by Velcro, falsely presumes a compound in bi-.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper