Dictionary.com

cyclone

[ sahy-klohn ]
/ ˈsaɪ kloʊn /
Save This Word!
See synonyms for: cyclone / cyclones on Thesaurus.com

noun
Meteorology. a large-scale, atmospheric wind-and-pressure system characterized by low pressure at its center and by circular wind motion, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.Compare anticyclone, extratropical cyclone, subtropical cyclone, tropical cyclone.
(not in technical use) tornado (def. 1).
Also called cy·clone col·lec·tor [sahy-klohn kuh-lek-ter], /ˈsaɪ kloʊn kəˌlɛk tər/, cy·clone sep·a·ra·tor [sahy-klohn sep-uh-rey-ter]. /ˈsaɪ kloʊn ˌsɛp əˌreɪ tər/. Machinery. a device for removing small or powdered solids from air, water, or other gases or liquids by centrifugal force.
QUIZ
SPRINT TO THE FINISH WITH THIS OLYMPICS QUIZ!
Compete in our Olympics quiz to see if you can take home the gold medal in Olympics knowledge.
Question 1 of 10
Where was the Olympics first held?
Meet Grammar CoachWrite or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing
Meet Grammar CoachImprove Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help

Origin of cyclone

Introduced by British meteorologist Henry Piddington (1797–1858) in 1848, perhaps from Greek kyklôn “revolving” (present participle of kykloûn “to revolve,” verbal derivative of kýklos “wheel, ring, circle”; see cycle); apparently confused by Piddington with kýklōma “wheel, snake's coil”

OTHER WORDS FROM cyclone

min·i·cy·clone, nounpre·cy·clone, noun

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH cyclone

cyclone , hurricane, tidal wave, tornado, tsunami, typhoon
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

CYCLONE VS. HURRICANE VS. TYPHOON

What’s the difference between a cyclone, a hurricane, and a typhoon?

Cyclone, hurricane, and typhoon are all terms for big storms.

Although the word cyclone is often used to refer to a big storm, it is, technically speaking, a large-scale, atmospheric wind-and-pressure system characterized by low pressure at its center and by circular wind motion. Because these generally produce clouds and precipitation, cyclones are often simply referred to as storms. When such storms form around the tropics, they are called tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones are classified based on their strength. They may start as tropical depressions and progress to tropical storms. The most severe tropical cyclones—those with winds of 74 mph (119 k/mh) or more—are called hurricanes or typhoons. Which term is used depends on where the storm occurs.

Generally, storms that form over the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico are called hurricanes, while those that form over the Pacific Ocean are called typhoons. (The word hurricane is sometimes used for storms that form over the eastern or central North Pacific Ocean.)

Cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

In casual use, the word cyclone is sometimes used to refer to a tornado (but it is not used this way in scientific contexts).

Here’s an example of cyclone, hurricane, and typhoon used correctly in a sentence.

Example: There have been many devastating cyclones this season, including a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and multiple typhoons in the Pacific.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons.

Quiz yourself on cyclone vs. hurricane vs. typhoon!

Should cyclone, hurricane, or typhoon be used in the following sentence?

Meteorologists are tracking a _____ that has formed in the Atlantic Ocean with winds exceeding 100 mph.

How to use cyclone in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cyclone (1 of 2)

cyclone
/ (ˈsaɪkləʊn) /

noun
another name for depression (def. 6)
a violent tropical storm; hurricane

Derived forms of cyclone

cyclonic (saɪˈklɒnɪk), cyclonical or cyclonal, adjectivecyclonically, adverb

Word Origin for cyclone

C19: from Greek kuklōn a turning around, from kukloein to revolve, from kuklos wheel

British Dictionary definitions for cyclone (2 of 2)

Cyclone
/ (ˈsaɪkləʊn) /

adjective
trademark Australian and NZ (of fencing) made of interlaced wire and metal
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

Scientific definitions for cyclone

cyclone
[ sīklōn′ ]

A large-scale system of winds that spiral in toward a region of low atmospheric pressure. A cyclone's rotational direction is opposite to that of an anticyclone. In the Northern hemisphere, a cyclone rotates counterclockwise; in the Southern hemisphere, clockwise. Because low-pressure systems generally produce clouds and precipitation, cyclones are often simply referred to as storms.♦ An extratropical cyclone is one that forms outside the tropics at middle or high latitudes. Extratropical cyclones usually have an organized front and migrate eastward with the prevailing westerly winds of those latitudes.♦ A tropical cyclone forms over warm tropical waters and is generally smaller than an extratropical cyclone. Such a system is characterized by a warm, well-defined core and can range in intensity from a tropical depression to a hurricane. Compare anticyclone.
A small-scale, violently rotating windstorm, such as a tornado or waterspout. Not in scientific use.

A Closer Look

Technically, a cyclone is nothing more than a region of low pressure around which air flows in an inward spiral. In the Northern Hemisphere the air moves counterclockwise around the low-pressure center, and in the Southern Hemisphere the air travels clockwise. Meteorologists also refer to tropical cyclones, which are cyclonic low-pressure systems that develop over warm water. For a tropical cyclone to originate, a large area of ocean must have a surface temperature greater than 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Tropical cyclones are categorized based on the strength of their sustained surface winds. They may begin as a tropical depression, with winds less than 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour. Tropical storms are identified and tracked once the winds exceed this speed. Severe tropical cyclones, with winds of 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour or greater, are better known as hurricanes when they occur in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, or as typhoons when they happen in the Pacific Ocean. Because the word cyclone broadly defines a kind of air flow, cyclones are not confined to our planet. In 1999 the Hubble Space Telescope photographed a cyclone more than 1,610 kilometers (1,000 miles) across in the northern polar regions of Mars.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for cyclone

cyclone

Any circular wind motion. A region of low atmospheric pressure. Also, a tropical storm.

notes for cyclone

Cyclones can be a few feet across (“dust devils”) or can be major storm systems such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons.

notes for cyclone

These winds move counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. (See Coriolis effect.)
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.
FEEDBACK