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, tropical cyclone.
(not in technical use) tornado.
Also called cyclone collector, cyclone separator. Machinery. a device for removing small or powdered solids from air, water, or other gases or liquids by centrifugal force.

Origin of cyclone

term introduced by British meteorologist Henry Piddington (1797–1858) in 1848, perhaps < Greek kyklôn revolving (present participle of kykloûn to revolve, verbal derivative of kýklos; see cycle); apparently confused by Piddington with kýklōma wheel, snake's coil
Related formsmin·i·cy·clone, nounpre·cy·clone, noun
Can be confusedcyclone hurricane tidal wave tornado tsunami typhoon Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for cyclone

twister, windstorm, typhoon

Examples from the Web for cyclone

Historical Examples of cyclone

  • The Trainer's admonition seemed like a cry to a cyclone, as void of usefulness.


    W. A. Fraser

  • In its wild condition it is something like a thunderbolt, an earthquake and a cyclone.

  • For all the changes in the world seemed gathering in a cyclone now.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • Within was the balm of rest—the rest that lies in the heart of the cyclone.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • When Prue announced the make-up of her troupe there was a cyclone in her own home.

    In a Little Town

    Rupert Hughes

British Dictionary definitions for cyclone



another name for depression (def. 6)
a violent tropical storm; hurricane
Derived Formscyclonic (saɪˈklɒnɪk), cyclonical or cyclonal, adjectivecyclonically, adverb

Word Origin for cyclone

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



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

Word Origin and History for cyclone

1848, coined by British East India Company official Henry Piddington to describe the devastating storm of December 1789 in Coringa, India; irregularly formed from Greek kyklon "moving in a circle, whirling around," present participle of kykloun "move in a circle, whirl," from kyklos "circle" (see cycle (n.)). Applied to tornados from 1856.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cyclone in Science



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.

cyclone in Culture


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


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


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.