noun, plural no·vas, no·vae [noh-vee] /ˈnoʊ vi/. Astronomy.

a star that suddenly becomes thousands of times brighter and then gradually fades to its original intensity.

Compare supernova.

Origin of nova

1680–90; < New Latin: noun use of feminine of Latin novus new
Related formsno·va·like, adjective




Also called Nova Salmon. a Pacific salmon cured in the style of Nova Scotia salmon.
(lowercase) (loosely) any smoked salmon. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for nova

star, supernova, superstar, orb

Examples from the Web for nova

Contemporary Examples of nova

Historical Examples of nova

  • Some day—and then the thought burst on him like a nova exploding in his brain.


    William Morrison

  • "Why, a little bird that came on board from Nova Scotia, they said," replied Hilbert.

  • To call a Gloucester man a Nova Scotian is not well received.

    "Captains Courageous"

    Rudyard Kipling

  • But while he was thus the child of Nova Scotia, he was her creator as well.

    The Tribune of Nova Scotia

    W. L. (William Lawson) Grant

  • Meanwhile, the Irish in Nova Scotia had been roused against him.

    The Tribune of Nova Scotia

    W. L. (William Lawson) Grant

British Dictionary definitions for nova


noun plural -vae (-viː) or -vas

a variable star that undergoes a cataclysmic eruption, observed as a sudden large increase in brightness with a subsequent decline over months or years; it is a close binary system with one component a white dwarfCompare supernova

Word Origin for nova

C19: New Latin nova (stella) new (star), from Latin novus new
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 nova

1877, from Latin nova, fem. singular adjective of novus "new" (see new), used with stella "star" (a feminine noun in Latin) to describe a new star not previously known. Classical plural is novae.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

nova in Science



Plural novae () novas

A white dwarf star that suddenly and temporarily becomes extremely bright as a result of the explosion at its surface of material accreted from an expanding companion star. The material, mostly hydrogen and helium, is attracted by the white dwarf's gravity and accumulates under growing pressure and heat until nuclear fusion is ignited. Unlike a supernova, a nova is not blown apart by the explosion and gradually returns to its original brightness over a period of weeks to years. Because of their sudden appearance where no star had been previously visible, novae were long thought to be new stars. Since 1925, novae have been classified as variable stars. Compare supernova.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

nova in Culture



In astronomy, the appearance of a new star in the sky (nova is Latin for “new”). Novae are usually associated with the last stages in the life of a star. (See supernova.)

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.