Definition of detonation in US English:



  • 1The action of causing a bomb or explosive device to explode.

    • ‘The construction of a car bomb and its detonation outside the Australian embassy gates required money, expertise and a large amount of planning.’
    • ‘The detonation of an unexploded bomb discovered along with the German skeletons sends its fragments across the town, causing damage that is more symbolic than physical.’
    • ‘By the end of the vignette, when the bombs are placed and we are waiting for detonation, the tension is almost unbearable.’
    • ‘Its shells contain fuel-air explosives that on detonation form a ball of fire, creating a powerful blast effect.’
    • ‘The subsequent detonation of a nuclear device in 1974 was testament to the strengthening of India's nuclear options.’
    • ‘There's a researcher out there - I used him a great deal for this piece and I'm using him some more, he knows at least five of the people who were involved in the making of the bomb and its detonation.’
    • ‘He mentions the atomic bomb detonation in Japan, which seems later to have saved their lives by ending the war at last.’
    • ‘Made in the 1952 detonation of the first thermonuclear bomb, the element fermium has since sat in a corner of the periodic table where few tools of chemistry reach.’
    • ‘An American soldier's hand held video camera captured the detonation of an Improvised Explosive Device.’
    • ‘India's detonation of a nuclear device was a cause of celebration in India, and it is difficult to imagine that any national leader would ever sign a prohibition until the public agrees with the leader.’
    • ‘The detonation of a nuclear bomb over a target such as a populated city causes immense damage.’
    • ‘Many atomic scientists gathered there between 1942 and the first detonation of an atomic bomb on 16 July 1945.’
    • ‘He crouched next to the bomb - which displayed seven minutes until detonation - and defused it.’
    • ‘Samizdata reminds us that on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, the Trinity test saw the Earth's first detonation of a nuclear device.’
    • ‘This material was used to blow up the Pan Am airplane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1987, and can also be used as the explosive charge in the detonation of a nuclear device.’
    • ‘When challenged by police at Stockwell subway station, he had attempted to run, jumping a ticket barrier, before being overpowered and shot multiple times in the head in order to prevent the possible detonation of a bomb.’
    • ‘Put simply, the only choice an officer may have may be to shoot to kill in order to prevent the detonation of a device.’
    • ‘A 14-year-old boy, Husam Abdu, trying to cross the Hawarah checkpoint near Nablus, was found to be wearing a vest filled with explosives ready for detonation.’
    • ‘The bomb's detonation is spectacular, all billowing flames and smoke and debris, and not much in the way of bodies or limbs or bloody flecks, the kind of stuff that does tend to fly around under such circumstances.’
    • ‘The detonation of an atomic bomb above Hiroshima was the starting gun for modern Japan.’
    explosion, discharge, blowing up, ignition, blast, burst, crack, bang, report
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A loud explosion.
      ‘a series of deafening detonations was heard’
      • ‘I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately after a gust of firing.’
      • ‘Hearing the detonations, the local vigilantes stormed in, shooting anything that moved.’
      • ‘The huge detonations sent coalition staffers running into the hallways.’
      • ‘Greif's notion of horror seems to be noise, the louder the better, with abundant offstage detonations.’
      • ‘Sir Stamford Raffles, the then British Lieutenant Governor of Java, reported a series of titanic detonations loud enough to be heard in Sumatra 1,600 kilometres away.’
      • ‘Behind me, I could hear several sirens blaring in the background despite constant detonations from the fire in front.’
      • ‘But the shattering detonations on Friday sounded like heavy mortar fire, and they shook our house to its foundations.’
      • ‘Heavy detonations, air raid sirens and the crackle of anti-aircraft fire thundered through Baghdad last night as the Iraqi capital faced a second night of attacks.’
      • ‘All he remembers is an earsplitting detonation.’
      • ‘The detonations at the racecourse stand displays are louder still, and pose a threat both to wildlife and to any babies and young children living in the area.’
      • ‘It contained 300 kg of explosive and the detonation was twice as loud as that of the SS - 23 missile, according to Colonel Nikolai Vulkov, head of the demolition team.’
      • ‘Then there was a detonation, loud and deep, near enough to consume all the information around him.’
      • ‘The news came after US planes returned to the skies over Kabul late yesterday and several strong detonations could be heard in the east of the city near the Taliban military academy.’
      • ‘‘The detonations perhaps will be louder than before,’ Svinarov said.’
      • ‘When we left, however, there was another air raid on and you could hear the detonations, feel the detonations even rippling through the edge of the city.’
      • ‘However, the nightly detonations testify that neither code nor law is being obeyed.’
      • ‘And just very late in the afternoon, just before sunset, there was a loud detonation not far from this hotel.’
      • ‘They somehow got a direct hit on one of our explosive dumps which exploded with a detonation louder than anything I ever heard.’
    2. 1.2technical Combustion of a substance which is initiated suddenly and propagates extremely rapidly, giving rise to a shock wave.
      Compare with deflagration
      • ‘Who knows what kind of impact it would have if atomic detonation shockwave combined with lethal radiations combed through the world below them.’
      • ‘This results in high pressure at the point of detonation, leading to the acceleration of gas molecules away from the explosion, a so called blast wind, the leading edge of which is the shock front.’
      • ‘The instantaneous destruction of all molecules in a sample is known as detonation, and the rapid expansion of hot gases that results is what gives rise to the destructive blast.’
      • ‘The detonation of each charge would result in an intense pressure wave, instantly shearing through the half-inch thick steel hull - like a gigantic cookie cutter.’
    3. 1.3 The premature combustion of fuel in an internal combustion engine, causing knocking.
      • ‘Its high octane rating delivers strong engine performance by helping engines resist detonation so they can run higher compression ratios.’
      • ‘Seeking larger expansion ratios, gasoline engine experts are improving combustion chamber shapes and fuel delivery so higher compression ratios can be tolerated without detonation.’
      • ‘If PRISM could move the spark, control when peak pressures occurred and prevent detonation from progressing to pre-ignition, perhaps it could also handle lower-octane fuels.’
      • ‘The type of explosion - the shape of the detonation - also makes hydrogen unsuitable as an alternative fuel for the conventional automobile.’
      • ‘To run an engine on unleaded fuel it may be necessary to retard the initial timing to prevent detonation and/or pre-ignition.’


Late 17th century: from French détonation, from the verb détoner, from Latin detonare ‘thunder down’ (see detonate).