[ mee-tee-er, -awr ]
/ ˈmi ti ər, -ˌɔr /
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  1. a meteoroid that has entered the earth's atmosphere.
  2. a transient fiery streak in the sky produced by a meteoroid passing through the earth's atmosphere; a shooting star or bolide.
any person or object that moves, progresses, becomes famous, etc., with spectacular speed.
(formerly) any atmospheric phenomenon, as hail or a typhoon.
Meteor, Military. Britain's first operational jet fighter, a twin-engine aircraft that entered service in 1944.
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Origin of meteor

First recorded in 1570–80; from New Latin meteōrum, from Greek metéōron “meteor, a thing in the air,” noun use of neuter of metéōros “raised in the air,” equivalent to met- met- + eōr- (variant stem of aeírein “to raise”) + -os adjective suffix


me·te·or·like, adjective


meteor , meteoric, meteorite, meteoroid

Other definitions for meteor (2 of 2)


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a meteor?

meteor is space matter that has entered Earth’s atmosphere, as in I was able to see a meteor enter our atmosphere last night through my telescope.

A meteor is also the bright, fiery streak that is visible in the sky when a meteor burns up. Meteors are often referred to as shooting stars or falling stars.

Simply put, a meteor is a meteoroid that has entered Earth’s atmosphere. A meteoroid is a small body of matter usually composed of dust or rock that travels through outer space. A meteor that reaches Earth’s surface is called a meteorite.

Meteor is sometimes used figuratively to mean something that moves or advances at high speed, as in The new rock band was a meteor that shot up the charts.

The adjective meteoric describes something involved with or related to a meteor. Meteoric is also used to describe something that resembles a meteor in terms of brightness or speed, as in We were amazed by her meteoric rise to stardom in Hollywood.

A large number of meteors traveling through Earth’s surface at one time is called a meteor shower.

Example: She took great pictures of last night’s meteor as it zoomed across the sky.

Where does meteor come from?

The first records of meteor come from around 1570. It ultimately comes from the Greek metéōron, meaning “a thing in the air.” At one time, meteor was used to refer to any phenomenon in the air, such as a typhoon or a hailstorm. This is why scientists that study weather are called meteorologists.

As meteors travel through Earth’s atmosphere, they usually burn up because of the friction caused by their speed mixing with the atmosphere. This burning causes a bright streak to appear in the sky, which is why we sometimes call them shooting (or falling) stars, even though they’re not stars at all.

Meteors and meteoroids are much smaller than comets or asteroids, which also travel through space.

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What are some other forms related to meteor?

  • meteorlike (adjective)

What are some synonyms for meteor?

What are some words that share a root or word element with meteor?

What are some words that often get used in discussing meteor?

What are some words meteor may be commonly confused with?

How is meteor used in real life?

Meteors move through Earth’s atmosphere on a regular basis, and stargazers always enjoy watching them.



Try using meteor!

True or False?

A meteor is a chunk of rock that travels through space.

How to use meteor in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for meteor

/ (ˈmiːtɪə) /

a very small meteoroid that has entered the earth's atmosphere. Such objects have speeds approaching 70 kilometres per second
Also called: shooting star, falling star the bright streak of light appearing in the sky due to the incandescence of such a body heated by friction at its surface

Word Origin for meteor

C15: from Medieval Latin meteōrum, from Greek meteōron something aloft, from meteōros lofty, from meta- (intensifier) + aeirein to raise
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 meteor

[ mētē-ər ]

A bright trail or streak of light that appears in the night sky when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere. The friction with the air causes the rock to glow with heat. Also called shooting star
A rocky body that produces such light. Most meteors burn up before reaching the Earth's surface. See Note at solar system.


The streaks of light we sometimes see in the night sky and call meteors were not identified as interplanetary rocks until the 19th century. Before then, the streaks of light were considered only one of a variety of atmospheric phenomena, all of which bore the name meteor. Rain was an aqueous meteor, winds and storms were airy meteors, and streaks of light in the sky were fiery meteors. This general use of meteor survives in our word meteorology, the study of the weather and atmospheric phenomena. Nowadays, astronomers use any of three words for rocks from interplanetary space, depending on their stage of descent to the Earth. A meteoroid is a rock in space that has the potential to collide with the Earth's atmosphere. Meteoroids range in size from a speck of dust to a chunk about 100 meters in diameter, though most are smaller than a pebble. When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, it becomes a meteor. The light that it gives off when heated by friction with the atmosphere is also called a meteor. If the rock is not obliterated by the friction and lands on the ground, it is called a meteorite. For this term, scientists borrowed the -ite suffix used in the names of minerals like malachite and pyrite.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for meteor


A streak of light in the sky, often called a “shooting star,” that occurs when a bit of extraterrestrial matter falls into the atmosphere of the Earth and burns up.

notes for meteor

Meteor showers occur at regular times during the year.
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.