[ reyn-boh ]
See synonyms for: rainbowrainbowlike on Thesaurus.com

  1. a bow or arc of prismatic colors appearing in the heavens opposite the sun and caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays in drops of rain.: Compare primary rainbow, secondary rainbow.

  2. a similar bow of colors, especially one appearing in the spray of a waterfall or fountain.

  1. any brightly multicolored arrangement or display.

  2. a wide variety or range; gamut.

  3. a visionary goal: He pursued the rainbow of a singing career for years before becoming a success.

  1. having a diverse membership; including representatives from different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, etc.: Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously described postapartheid South Africa as a rainbow nation.LGBTQ Pride month celebrates all of the rainbow community.Candidates are appealing to a rainbow coalition of minority voters.

Origin of rainbow

First recorded before 1000; Middle English reinbowe, Old English regnboga, rēnboga; cognate with Old Norse regnbogi, German Regenbogen; see rain, bow2

Other words from rainbow

  • rain·bow·y, rain·bow·like, adjective

Words Nearby rainbow

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

How to use rainbow in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for rainbow (1 of 2)


/ (ˈreɪnˌbəʊ) /

  1. a bow-shaped display in the sky of the colours of the spectrum, caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays through rain or mist

    • any similar display of bright colours

    • (as modifier): a rainbow pattern

  1. an illusory hope: to chase rainbows

  2. (modifier) of or relating to a political grouping together by several minorities, esp of different races: the rainbow coalition

British Dictionary definitions for Rainbow (2 of 2)


/ (ˈreɪnˌbəʊ) /

  1. a member of the Rainbow Guides, the youngest group of girls (aged 5-7 years) in The Guide Association

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 rainbow


[ rānbō′ ]

  1. An arc-shaped spectrum of color seen in the sky opposite the Sun, especially after rain, caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight by droplets of water suspended in the air. Secondary rainbows that are larger and paler sometimes appear within the primary arc with the colors reversed (red being inside). These result from two reflections and refractions of a light ray inside a droplet.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for rainbow


The colored arch in the sky that is often seen after a rain. The rainbow is formed when water droplets in the air cause the diffraction of sunlight.

Notes for rainbow

The colors of the rainbow are violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.

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.