Definition of rainbow in US English:



  • 1An arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere.

    • ‘The receding rains also formed a rainbow spanning the sky and dipping into a village in the valley.’
    • ‘But the reward was generous - a tremulous rainbow arched over the mountains, shaggy with greenery.’
    • ‘A mother's smile is like seeing a rainbow after it rains and the sun comes out.’
    • ‘Their blossoms can be either single, double, or semi-double, and come in nearly every color of the rainbow except blue and green.’
    • ‘A rainbow arched over the far wing in between showers of rain and bursts of sunshine.’
    • ‘Is there a raindrops-per-cubic-inch threshold that's necessary for a rainbow to be visible?’
    • ‘In some cases, light is reflected twice by each rain drop, forming a larger, fainter secondary rainbow outside the primary rainbow.’
    • ‘The spray - which can be felt half a mile away - creates a rainbow, arching over the whole width and shimmering in the sunlight.’
    • ‘You'll find every shade in the rainbow except blue, including gorgeous blends of two or more colors.’
    • ‘As we leave Pisac and roll down the side of the gorge, the sun suddenly emerges and a brilliant rainbow lights up the verdant green Sacred Valley of the Incas.’
    • ‘The brightest rainbows occur when the raindrops are large, so by studying the rainbow, you can deduce whether the drops that are falling are large or small.’
    • ‘A rainbow arched its bridge of many colours across the evening sky, nature's magical wave of the wand.’
    • ‘Late-blooming clematis grew up the trellis, forming a wall of flowers in a rainbow's colours, feathery seed heads and green leaves, enclosing the patio.’
    • ‘Some trick of the angle, the light, and the nature of the liquid droplets in the atmosphere produced a rainbow that seemed to be shining entirely in the red end of the spectrum.’
    • ‘It was still grey and wet from raining earlier but she could see the red and orange from a dim rainbow across the mountain.’
    • ‘You don't get rainbows without rain, after all.’
    • ‘All of a sudden, the sky cleared, became blue and a perfect rainbow arched over me with one end in the sand.’
    • ‘Mists from the falling water made rainbows all down the cliff.’
    • ‘You can find these roses in every color of the rainbow, except blue.’
    • ‘A brilliant rainbow formed a perfect arch on what was destined to be a great vista, where Lutyens' memorial arch [now called India Gate] stands.’
    brightly coloured, bright-coloured, deep-coloured, brilliant, glowing, radiant, vivid, rich, vibrant
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Any display of the colors of the spectrum produced by dispersion of light.
      • ‘Large, clear-cut, crystalline windows shone in the late afternoon sun, casting colorful rainbows across the expansive lawn.’
      • ‘The sunlight in the water splashed circles of rainbows on the rock walls, making it an absolutely beautiful place to doze in the afternoon.’
      • ‘The diamond was shining brilliantly in the sun, casting tiny rainbows on her fingers.’
      • ‘Stained glass windows splayed sunlight in multicolored, non-sense rainbows over the rich Persian rugs thrown to either side of the ruby highway.’
      • ‘The sole job of a spectroscope is to break light into a rainbow of its component colors.’
      • ‘Sunlight filtered through the water, creating the rainbows, and providing them with light.’
      • ‘The light bounced off his light blonde hair and the three silver hoops in his ear in iridescent rainbows.’
      • ‘The light from the open window glinted off every angle and gave the appearance that the blade itself was shimmering as it sent rainbows of refracted light across the room.’
      • ‘He paused, watching the rainbows of refracted light from it sparkle on the shelves and walls, an expression of almost reverent awe on his face.’
    2. 1.2 A wide range or variety of related and typically colorful things.
      ‘a rainbow of medals decorated his chest’
      • ‘Huge boulders covered with a rainbow of corals are back-dropped by dazzling white sand making the colours even more vibrant in contrast.’
      • ‘He entered with a tray balanced on his hand, and when he looked up and saw us a rainbow of emotions crossed his face.’
      • ‘The bright green shrubs and rainbows of flowers all looked the same after a while.’
      • ‘Lining up in a rainbow of small, banana-shaped plastic boats, one by one we steered our kayaks across the angry stretch of open water.’
      • ‘They were arranged by type and color, so just walking down the long pathways gave the viewers a rainbow of botanicals and a smell just as invigorating as the scenery.’
      • ‘When we come out, our families have a rainbow of reactions.’
      • ‘The Physical Activity Guide offers a rainbow of activities to choose from.’
      • ‘Bright colors created a rainbow of dresses and veils!’
      • ‘He will be back with a rainbow of programmes for this creative crowd.’
      • ‘Their music was a rainbow of sounds and songs drawn from gamelan to pop, via jazz and Terry Riley's minimalism.’
      • ‘The streets of the town are packed with fabric shops; their shelves piled high with a rainbow of materials.’
      • ‘His death at the age of 99 conjures up a rainbow of feelings.’
      • ‘Their different reasons for forming these collections comprise a rainbow of motives as complex as a Navajo sand painting.’
      • ‘A cast of 10 will employ tricks and spells such as mime, dance, live music and puppetry, thus enchanting their audience with a rainbow of stories from around the world!’
      • ‘India has a rainbow of cultures spread out over 27 states and six territories.’
      • ‘It's home to the more unusual sea apples - cucumbers that sprout a rainbow of filter-feeding arms - as well as colourful toxic sea urchins.’
      • ‘There was a time when the better players had balls with a wide variety of pin positions, allowing a rainbow of reactions.’
      • ‘The natural health guru suggests trying to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables each day to get the right variety of nutrients.’
      • ‘Following the path of the red Aids ribbon, Armstrong's band has spawned a rainbow of imitators.’
      • ‘Behind the asymmetric bars sat the gymnasts, a rainbow of tracksuits under a canopy of national flags.’
    3. 1.3as modifier Many-colored.
      ‘a big rainbow packet of felt pens’
      • ‘I saw my first puffins, a flock swimming in the sea, small birds with big triangular rainbow beaks that look as if they're held on with elastic, like clown noses.’
      • ‘A hundred dancers, clothed in rainbow silks, celebrate Diwali in Blenheim palace.’
      • ‘Whether in a cup or a cone - single or double dip - and sprinkled with chocolate or rainbow jimmies, ice cream evokes happy memories.’
      • ‘In their diversity and variety, they encompass various coalescing and opposing interests and ideas to give them a many-coloured rainbow splendour.’
      • ‘Every day of my junior year, I wore a pair of rainbow suspenders, jeans rolled up to my knees, striped knee socks, and a newsboy cap.’
      • ‘First, fill a standard coffee mug with 2 scoops of rainbow sherbet.’
      • ‘With its amazing soundtrack and psychedelic rainbow visuals it captivates adults and kids alike.’
      • ‘This season the store looks like the set of Austin Powers - all short skirts and rainbow dresses, along with simpler black and white versions.’
      • ‘She sat across from the little girl at her kitchen table with a large plate of freshly chopped rainbow peppers sitting between them and ranch dressing to dip them in.’
      • ‘Nowadays, we find golden berries, rainbow corn, and black carrots, varieties not commonly available before.’
      • ‘Someone had given Colin a huge bouquet of rainbow balloons, and there were so many that they blocked the three men from the view of the front seat and the side windows.’
      • ‘Above it all floated a huge sparkling mirror ball, glistening as it rotated in the sun, spewing rainbow streaks across the implausible scene.’
      • ‘Your favorite ice cream flavor is cotton candy and you eat it with rainbow sprinkles.’
      • ‘I really shouldn't have been surprised when I ended up at the ice cream parlor with Mom and my three scoops of rainbow sherbet in a sugar cone.’
      • ‘I dressed in black tank top and rainbow gypsy skirt.’
      • ‘Huge blocks of pale turquoise were set off by strips of lemon yellow hems or belts, and oversized rainbow stripes crisscrossed the body on dresses and shell tops.’
      • ‘Most striking is a work with tiny rainbow streaks at the top edge near the center, like a prismatic reflection, while almost all of the rest is black.’
      • ‘A black cloth got transformed into rainbow hues, and the Tri-colour emerged from the pieces of cloth kept in a tin.’
      • ‘She was wearing multicoloured jazzy pants and a slinky glittery rainbow top that exposed her entire back, a lot of her stomach and neck and was very risqué.’
      • ‘The first time I went to Thailand, I got these rainbow beads.’


  • at the end of the rainbow

    • Used to refer to something much sought after but impossible to attain.

      • ‘The slip of paper inside the fortune cookie I got to choose on Thursday night read: ‘You will soon find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.’’
      • ‘Then along came the high-technology stocks with their promise of gold at the end of the rainbow and pharmaceutical shares were cast aside like a pair of old boots.’
      • ‘Then I grew up and realized that not much has changed, only that now you're promised gold at the end of the rainbow if you work hard enough.’
      • ‘So one of the first things I had to deal with in coming here was the dot-com view of just doing an IPO and quickly seeing a big payday at the end of the rainbow.’
      • ‘Yet, they continue on with a program they might not enjoy, burnt out and stressed, because they see a light at the end of the rainbow that might not exist, but is still worth attempting to reach.’
      • ‘Competitive balance is a worthy aim, but it may be a mere illusion, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.’
      • ‘You could lose $100 million today because at the end of the rainbow, you were going to make a trillion.’
      • ‘We'll never find happiness by looking for it, any more than we'll find the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow by looking for it.’
      • ‘They are still desperately chasing the feature film at the end of the rainbow.’
      • ‘Urban life is not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for those who migrate.’
  • chase rainbows (or a rainbow)

    • Pursue an illusory goal.

      • ‘It made me feel like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.’
      • ‘If the presence of the man who produced rank commercial potboilers at the film festival was construed a mismatch by many, he insisted he was not there to chase rainbows.’
      • ‘It makes all the sense in the world for them to refocus where they're strong, rather than chase rainbows.’
      • ‘In these times when so many seem to spend their lives chasing rainbows, we can reflect on the great faith and fortitude of those who went before us.’
      • ‘You belong here by your son's side to help him get better, not off chasing rainbows.’
      • ‘They make personal decisions, just as do many in other walks of life, to chase rainbows, so let them take the consequences, just like a student who must pass annual examinations of suffer the consequences.’
      • ‘Everyone chases rainbows and ignores the low hanging fruit.’
      • ‘By my teen years I mostly figured out that my dad sent me chasing rainbows because he knew I'd never find the ends.’
      • ‘I'd certainly understand if this purported surgery turns out to be some kind of Internet urban legend and I'm chasing rainbows, but I wanted to ask a doctor for whom I have respect.’
      • ‘The latest EU attack on chemicals is just chasing rainbows.’
      • ‘"They are wasting money on IT consultants chasing another technology rainbow.’


Old English regnboga (see rain, bow).