[ neb-yuh-luh ]
/ ˈnɛb yə lə /

noun, plural neb·u·lae [neb-yuh-lee, -lahy] /ˈnɛb yəˌli, -ˌlaɪ/, neb·u·las.

  1. Also called diffuse nebula. a cloud of interstellar gas and dust.Compare dark nebula, emission nebula, reflection nebula.
  2. (formerly) any celestial object that appears nebulous, hazy, or fuzzy, and extended in a telescope view.
  1. a faint opacity in the cornea.
  2. cloudiness in the urine.
any liquid medication prepared for use as a spray.


Origin of nebula

1655–65; < Latin: a mist, vapor, cloud; akin to Greek nephélē cloud, German Nebel fog, haze
Related formsneb·u·lar, adjectivenon·neb·u·lar, adjectivepre·neb·u·lar, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for nebulae

British Dictionary definitions for nebulae


/ (ˈnɛbjʊlə) /

noun plural -lae (-ˌliː) or -las

astronomy a diffuse cloud of particles and gases (mainly hydrogen) that is visible either as a hazy patch of light (either an emission or a reflection nebula) or an irregular dark region against a brighter background (dark nebula)Compare planetary nebula
  1. opacity of the cornea
  2. cloudiness of the urine
any substance for use in an atomizer spray
Derived Formsnebular, adjective

Word Origin for nebula

C17: from Latin: mist, cloud; related to Greek nephétē cloud, Old High German nebul cloud, Old Norse njól night
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 nebulae



early 15c., nebule "a cloud, mist," from Latin nebula "mist, vapor, fog, smoke, exhalation," figuratively "darkness, obscurity," from PIE *nebh- "cloud" (cf. Sanskrit nabhas- "vapor, cloud, mists, fog, sky;" Greek nephele, nephos "cloud;" German nebel "fog;" Old English nifol "dark, gloomy;" Welsh niwl "cloud, fog;" Slavic nebo).

Re-borrowed from Latin 1660s in sense of "cataracts in the eye;" astronomical meaning "cloud-like patch in the night sky" first recorded c.1730. As early as Hershel (1802) astronomers realized that some nebulae were star clusters, but certain distinction of relatively nearby cosmic gas clouds from distant galaxies was not made until 1920s, using the new 100-inch Mt. Wilson telescope.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for nebulae


[ nĕbyə-lə ]

n. pl. neb•u•las

A faint, foglike opacity of the cornea.
A class of oily preparations for use in a nebulizer.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for nebulae


[ nĕbyə-lə ]

Plural nebulae (nĕbyə-lē′) nebulas

A visible, thinly spread cloud of interstellar gas and dust. Some nebulae are the remnants of a supernova explosion, others are gravity-induced condensations of the gases in the interstellar medium which in certain cases may become a site for the formation of new stars. The term was formerly used of any hazy, seemingly cloudlike object, including what are now recognized as other galaxies beyond the Milky Way; it is restricted now to actual clouds of gas and dust within our own galaxy.♦ Nebulae are generally classified as bright or dark. Among the bright nebulae are cold clouds that reflect light from nearby stars (reflection nebulae) and hot, ionized clouds that glow with their own light (emission nebulae). Dark nebulae-cold clouds that absorb the passing light from background stars-are called absorption nebulae. See more at star.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for nebulae


[ (neb-yuh-luh) ]

plur. nebulae

In astronomy, a hazy patch of light visible in the sky. Some nebulae are clouds of gas within the Milky Way; others are distant galaxies.

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.