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billow

[bil-oh]
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noun
  1. a great wave or surge of the sea.
  2. any surging mass: billows of smoke.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to rise or roll in or like billows; surge.
  2. to swell out, puff up, etc., as by the action of wind: flags billowing in the breeze.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to make rise, surge, swell, or the like: A sudden wind billowed the tent alarmingly.
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Origin of billow

1545–55; < Old Norse bylgja wave, cognate with Middle Low German bulge; akin to Old English gebylgan to anger, provoke
Related formsun·der·bil·low, verb (used without object)

Synonyms

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

undulate, swell, wave, tide, breaker, crest, surge, beachcomber, roller, bloat, bulge, roll, balloon, rock, bounce, toss, belly, pitch, ripple, heave

Examples from the Web for billow

Historical Examples

  • They are in circumstances in which the ripple passes into the wavelet, and the wavelet into the billow.

    Leading Articles on Various Subjects

    Hugh Miller

  • It flared briefly and let out with a billow of thick red smoke.

    Highways in Hiding

    George Oliver Smith

  • Oh, the wreck is on the billow; hasten with the means of safety.

  • The billow and the wind And the still waters will sweep us away Mercilessly!

    Life Immovable

    Kostes Palamas

  • The interior of the house was a billow of red, white, and blue.

    The Clansman

    Thomas Dixon


British Dictionary definitions for billow

billow

noun
  1. a large sea wave
  2. a swelling or surging mass, as of smoke or sound
  3. a large atmospheric wave, usually in the lee of a hill
  4. (plural) poetic the sea itself
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verb
  1. to rise up, swell out, or cause to rise up or swell out
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Derived Formsbillowing, adjective, noun

Word Origin

C16: from Old Norse bylgja; related to Swedish bōlja, Danish bölg, Middle High German bulge; see bellow, belly
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 billow

n.

1550s, perhaps older in dialectal use, from Old Norse bylgja "a wave, a billow," from Proto-Germanic *bulgjan (cf. Middle High German bulge "billow, bag"), from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell" (see belly (n.)).

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v.

1590s, from billow (n.). Related: Billowed; billowing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper