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meteor

[mee-tee-er, -awr]
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noun
  1. Astronomy.
    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.
  2. any person or object that moves, progresses, becomes famous, etc., with spectacular speed.
  3. (formerly) any atmospheric phenomenon, as hail or a typhoon.
  4. (initial capital letter) Military. Britain's first operational jet fighter, a twin-engine aircraft that entered service in 1944.
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Origin of meteor

1570–80; < New Latin meteōrum < 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 aéirein to raise) + -os adj. suffix
Related formsme·te·or·like, adjective
Can be confusedmeteor meteoric meteorite meteoroid

meteor.

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

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British Dictionary definitions for meteor

meteor

noun
  1. a very small meteoroid that has entered the earth's atmosphere. Such objects have speeds approaching 70 kilometres per second
  2. 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
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Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for meteor

n.

late 15c., "any atmospheric phenomenon," from Middle French meteore (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin meteorum (nominative meteora), from Greek ta meteora "the celestial phenomena, things in heaven above," plural of meteoron, literally "thing high up," noun use of neuter of meteoros (adj.) "high up, raised from the ground, hanging," from meta- "over, beyond" (see meta-) + -aoros "lifted, hovering in air," related to aeirein "to raise" (see aorta).

Specific sense of "fireball, shooting star" is attested from 1590s. Atmospheric phenomena were formerly classified as aerial meteors (wind), aqueous meteors (rain, snow, hail), luminous meteors (aurora, rainbows), and igneous meteors (lightning, shooting stars).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

meteor in Science

meteor

[mētē-ər]
  1. 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
  2. A rocky body that produces such light. Most meteors burn up before reaching the Earth's surface. See Note at solar system.
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Usage: 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.

meteor in Culture

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.

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Note

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.