Origin of vacuum

1540–50; < Latin, neuter of vacuus empty
Related formsnon·vac·u·um, adjective, noun, plural non·vac·u·ums, non·vac·u·a.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vacuum

Contemporary Examples of vacuum

Historical Examples of vacuum

  • As for Philip, all seemed a mere negation; there was a vacuum where his place had been.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • There were only a Ruhmkorff coil and Crookes (vacuum) tube and the man himself.

  • His first search was for a durable filament which would burn in a vacuum.

    The Age of Invention

    Holland Thompson

  • Plato affirms, almost in so many words, that nature abhors a vacuum.



  • Yes, it must be that this land is a vacuum, such as I read of when I was a girl in school.

British Dictionary definitions for vacuum


noun plural vacuums or vacua (ˈvækjʊə)

a region containing no matter; free spaceCompare plenum (def. 3)
a region in which gas is present at a low pressure
the degree of exhaustion of gas within an enclosed spacea high vacuum; a perfect vacuum
a sense or feeling of emptinesshis death left a vacuum in her life
short for vacuum cleaner
(modifier) of, containing, measuring, producing, or operated by a low gas pressurea vacuum tube; a vacuum brake


to clean (something) with a vacuum cleanerto vacuum a carpet

Word Origin for vacuum

C16: from Latin: an empty space, from vacuus empty
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 vacuum

1540s, "emptiness of space," from Latin vacuum "an empty space, void," noun use of neuter of vacuus "empty," related to vacare "be empty" (see vain). Properly a loan-translation of Greek kenon, literally "that which is empty." Meaning "a place emptied of air" is attested from 1650s. Vacuum tube is attested from 1859. Vacuum cleaner is from 1903; shortened form vacuum (n.) first recorded 1910.


"to clean with a vacuum cleaner," 1922; see vacuum (n.). Related: Vacuumed; vacuuming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for vacuum


[văkyōō-əm, -yōōm, -yəm]

n. pl. vac•u•ums

Absence of matter.
A space empty of matter.
A space relatively empty of matter.
A space in which the pressure is significantly lower than atmospheric pressure.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for vacuum



Plural vacuums vacuua

A region of space in which there is no matter.
A region of space having extremely low gas pressure relative to surrounding pressure. The air pump of a vacuum cleaner, for example, drastically reduces the air pressure inside the device, creating a vacuum; the pressure difference causes air to rush into it, carrying dust and debris along with it.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for vacuum


The absence of matter.


In the natural world, air will flow into regions of vacuum, giving rise to the saying “Nature abhors a vacuum.”


The saying is extended informally: in politics, a lack of leadership may be referred to as a vacuum, which will presumably be filled by others rushing in.
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.