[ tawr-ney-doh ]
See synonyms for: tornadotornadoes on

noun,plural tor·na·does, tor·na·dos.
  1. Meteorology. a potentially violent and destructive system of atmospheric circulation, characterized by a long, funnel-shaped cloud extending toward the ground and made visible by condensation and debris: although tornadoes have occurred on all continents except Antarctica, they are most common in the United States, especially in the area known as Tornado Alley. : Compare waterspout (def. 3).

  2. Meteorology. a violent squall or whirlwind of small extent, as one of those occurring during the summer on the west coast of Africa.

  1. a violent outburst, as of emotion or activity: The weekly tornado has arrived—in the form of my three grandchildren and their two dogs.

  2. Tornado, Military. a supersonic, two-seat, multipurpose military aircraft produced jointly by West Germany, Britain, and Italy and capable of flying in darkness and bad weather.

Origin of tornado

First recorded in 1550–60; apparently by metathesis from Spanish tronada “thunderstorm,” noun use of feminine of tronado, past participle of tronar, from Latin tonāre “to thunder”; replacing 16th-century ternado, with unexplained e

Other words from tornado

  • tor·nad·ic [tawr-nad-ik, -ney-dik], /tɔrˈnæd ɪk, -ˈneɪ dɪk/, adjective
  • tor·na·do·like, adjective

Words that may be confused with tornado Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tornado in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tornado


/ (tɔːˈneɪdəʊ) /

nounplural -does or -dos
  1. Also called: cyclone, (US and Canadian informal) twister a violent storm with winds whirling around a small area of extremely low pressure, usually characterized by a dark funnel-shaped cloud causing damage along its path

  2. a small but violent squall or whirlwind, such as those occurring on the West African coast

  1. any violently active or destructive person or thing

  2. (often capital) a type of dinghy, designed to be crewed by two people

Origin of tornado

C16: probably alteration of Spanish tronada thunderstorm (from tronar to thunder, from Latin tonāre), through influence of tornar to turn, from Latin tornāre to turn in a lathe

Derived forms of tornado

  • tornadic (tɔːˈnædɪk), adjective
  • tornado-like, adjective

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 tornado


[ tôr-nā ]

  1. A violently rotating column of air extending from a cumulonimbus cloud to the Earth, ranging in width from a few meters to more than a kilometer and whirling at speeds between 64 km (40 mi) and 509 km (316 mi) per hour or higher with comparable updrafts in the center of the vortex. The vortex may contain several smaller vortices rotating within it. Tornadoes typically take the form of a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud extending downward from storm clouds, often reaching the ground, and dissolving into thin, ropelike clouds as the tornado dissipates. Tornadoes may travel from a few dozen meters to hundreds of kilometers along the ground. Tornadoes usually form in the tail end of violent thunderstorms, with weaker funnels sometimes forming in groups along a leading squall line of an advancing cold front or in areas near a hurricane. The strongest tornadoes, which may last several hours and travel hundreds of kilometers, can cause massive destruction in a relatively narrow strip along their path. The causes of tornado formation are not well understood.

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

Cultural definitions for tornado


In meteorology, a storm in which high-speed winds move in a funnel-shaped pattern.

Notes for tornado

Tornadoes occur chiefly during thunderstorms.

Notes for tornado

If the tip of the funnel touches the ground, it can cause extensive damage.

Notes for tornado

Tornadoes are common in the Middle West.

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.