[ hur-i-keyn, huhr- or, especially British, -kuhn ]
/ ˈhɜr ɪˌkeɪn, ˈhʌr- or, especially British, -kən /
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Meteorology. a tropical cyclone of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or eastern Pacific Ocean, having sustained wind speeds of at least 64 knots (74 miles per hour, 33 meters per second): hurricanes form in waters with surface temperatures of about 80°F (27°C), intensifying as temperatures rise.Compare typhoon.
anything characterized by a turmoil of force or activity, suggestive of a hurricane: As our helicopter got closer to the canyon, a hurricane of wild horses took off in all directions, kicking up clouds of dust that impaired the pilot’s vision.
Hurricane, Military. a single-seat British fighter plane of World War II, fitted with eight .303 caliber machine guns and with a top speed in excess of 300 miles per hour (480 kilometers per hour).


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Origin of hurricane

First recorded in 1545–55; earlier furacan, hurricano, uracan, from Spanish huracán and Portuguese furacão, from Taíno huracán, furacán


cyclone, hurricane , tidal wave, tornado, tsunami, typhoon
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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

Hurricane, cyclone, 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.

hurricane vs. tornado

Hurricanes are essentially massive, spinning formations of multiple thunderstorms, while tornadoes are rotating funnel clouds formed from a single storm—and only over land. Tornadoes can form from the thunderstorms that make up a hurricane, but they more commonly form from single thunderstorms. Tornadoes are much, much smaller in scale than hurricanes.

cyclone vs. tornado

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 hurricane, cyclone, 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 hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons.

Quiz yourself on hurricane vs. cyclone vs. typhoon!

Should hurricane, cyclone, 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 hurricane in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for hurricane

/ (ˈhʌrɪkən, -keɪn) /

a severe, often destructive storm, esp a tropical cyclone
  1. a wind of force 12 or above on the Beaufort scale
  2. (as modifier)a wind of hurricane force
anything acting like such a wind

Word Origin for hurricane

C16: from Spanish huracán, from Taino hurakán, from hura wind
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 hurricane

[ hûrĭ-kān′ ]

A severe, rotating tropical storm with heavy rains and cyclonic winds exceeding 74 mi (119 km) per hour, especially such a storm occurring in the Northern Hemisphere. Hurricanes originate in the tropical parts of the Atlantic Ocean or the Caribbean Sea and move generally northward. They lose force when they move over land or colder ocean waters. See Note at cyclone.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for hurricane


A large tropical storm system with high-powered circular winds. (See cyclone and eye of a hurricane.)

notes for hurricane

Between July and October, hurricanes cause extensive damage along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. (See Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.)
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.