Definition of nimbus in US English:



  • 1A luminous cloud or a halo surrounding a supernatural being or a saint.

    • ‘That we especially attend to, and emphasize, borders and boundaries is evidenced powerfully in our use of halos, the nimbus and the aura in the arts.’
    • ‘Sun worship was marked by the use of the halo, or nimbus, which originated with the pagan Greeks and Romans to represent their sun god, Helios.’
    • ‘This boy monk had a halo around him, a nimbus of purity, divinity, and godliness.’
    • ‘In the third and fourth centuries, the halo or nimbus (Latin: ‘cloud’ or ‘mist’) was used only for Christ and the lamb.’
    • ‘Kira was laying, her head laying delicately on a rock, her hair splayed out around her head like a nimbus.’
    1. 1.1 A light, color, etc., that surrounds someone or something.
      • ‘He was sitting with his back to the window, sunlight behind his shoulder haloing his fur in a nimbus of white light, being shattered into a hundred pieces by the facets of the cut crystal goblet in his hand.’
      • ‘The blue nimbus soon engulfed them and vanished from view.’
      • ‘A rosy nimbus surrounded him and the lifeless body, which slowly sat up.’
      • ‘The polenta looked like a very small moon surrounded by a large nimbus of vapour.’
      • ‘From the walls of the room jagged flashes of blue-white lightning clawed out at the creature, outlining it in a momentary nimbus of sparks and power which faded in the blink of an eye.’
      • ‘Heat flashed along her bonds and they melted instantly, mere puddles of once-hard iron, and she pulled herself free, surrounded in a fiery nimbus.’
      • ‘He looked at me, then twitched his ears in rueful laughter and moved back a couple of steps until all I could see of him was his silhouette against the grey nimbus surrounding the moon.’
      • ‘Nobody noticed the dark man hovering in the sky, away from the setting sun or the moon, as he watched the spectacle, before he disappeared in a nimbus of smoke.’
      • ‘Ronnie took another lazy drag on her cigarette, blowing the stale grey smoke in a small cloud up towards the ceiling, where it gathered in a dirty nimbus around the sickly yellow light bulb.’
      • ‘Mara stood there, face incandescent with rage, eyes blazing with purple wrath and entire body outlined in a shimmering nimbus of terrible light.’
      • ‘Suddenly, the faint silver nimbus around her flared.’
      • ‘When the power within her reached its peak, the red nimbus around her expanded to fill the entire corridor.’
      • ‘He grew terribly bright, as if ghostly images of himself had focused on him, and a crackling nimbus of pure force that glowed a deep gold-crimson surrounded him.’
      • ‘One of the last things that registered on Dave's perception as his vision faded was a flickering black nimbus of energy limning the creature's form.’
      • ‘As the waiting room door closed behind him, another door opened in front of him, with a familiar electronic hum and a nimbus of blue-white light.’
      • ‘Outside it was still dark, but there was a hint of pink on the eastern horizon, a small nimbus of light that proclaimed the coming of the sun.’
      • ‘Except sometimes, if you saw him in the right light, he had this nimbus.’
      • ‘The whole thing was surrounded by a golden nimbus.’
      • ‘Turning away, the afterimage on my retina has added nimbi to all of them.’
      • ‘Some distance ahead, the hall bent to the left, and from those hidden precincts glowed a nimbus of yellowish luminescence.’
  • 2A large gray rain cloud.

    as modifier ‘nimbus clouds’
    • ‘Surely an overreaction, there was just the merest nimbus puff floating benevolently by as we left home - it looked a great Sunday for football.’
    • ‘Her face, all her skin, was the color of the nimbus clouds on a calm summer afternoon.’
    • ‘As though a spell was spoken, a strong, chilling wind passed over the two and a large nimbus cloud blocked the Sun out.’
    • ‘A broken skein of clouds, outracing the birds underneath, abruptly halts, spins and dissolves into a moist nimbus.’
    • ‘The Serengeti: under the lowering anvil nimbus, electric storms stutter on the horizon.’
    • ‘By the dense nimbus above them, she could tell that a no ordinary rain was about to come.’
    • ‘A dull robin's egg-blue canvas, bearing ever-so-faint gray diagonal streaks that recall dark nimbus clouds, functions mainly as a visual texture.’
    • ‘Above the mighty fortress of earth, dark cumulous nimbus clouds clash violently against each other invoking the worst of all storms and hindering all whom dare to cross by air.’


Early 17th century: from Latin, literally ‘cloud, aureole’.