Definition of thunderbolt in US English:



  • 1A flash of lightning with a simultaneous crash of thunder.

    • ‘Thousands flocked to the Minster and Clifford's Tower, assuming the colourful thunderbolts would be visible above the city landmarks.’
    • ‘I don't plan to repeat that performance, and hope the storm is of the snow falling kind, rather than the thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening dogs.’
    • ‘When the bizarre and woefully ugly characters of Royston Vasey experience thunderbolts and lightning in their beloved village, they begin to imagine it is the end of the world.’
    • ‘I expect she was trying to escape the Suffolk weather, which, when it's not bombarding us with thunderbolts and lightning (very very frightening), is chucking meteorites at us.’
    • ‘Crickets hum their night song, trees sway to strong winds and an occasional thunderbolt lights up the dark sky.’
    • ‘However, during thunderbolts and lightning I prefer to exercise caution.’
    • ‘Maybe she just, as you said, had the attention span of a thunderbolt.’
    thunderclap, thunder crack, thunder roll, roll of thunder, peal of thunder, rumble of thunder, crack of thunder, crash of thunder, rumbling, crashing, roar
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    1. 1.1 A supposed bolt or shaft believed to be the destructive agent in a lightning flash, especially as an attribute of a god such as Jupiter or Thor.
      • ‘But we'd rather have honest mortals looking after us than deities who never take responsibility for their thunderbolts.’
      • ‘The three brothers became the blacksmiths of the Olympian gods, creating Zeus' thunderbolts, Poseidon's trident.’
      • ‘Zeus used a thunderbolt to stop the rampage and the horses plunged into the sea.’
      • ‘In revenge, Apollo killed the Cyclopes that forged Zeus' thunderbolts.’
      • ‘The Chorus also recalls how Bacchus' mother, a mortal woman, was killed after she was tragically struck by Zeus' thunderbolt.’
      • ‘Suppose a thunderbolt was sent down to strike him dead.’
      • ‘The enraged Zeus sent a thunderbolt hurtling down to shatter the cliff, and with blasts of wind, opened an abyss-dungeon deep within the trembling earth.’
      • ‘Odysseus was the only one to survive Zeus' thunderbolt.’
      • ‘Another resounding crash followed a thunderbolt striking the other arm of the statue.’
      • ‘When he bragged about this, Jupiter made him lame with a thunderbolt.’
      • ‘In the latter, a monstrous giant steals Zeus's thunderbolts, which are retrieved in a manner similar to Thor's thunderweapons.’
      • ‘In Armenian traditions, the fire and lightning god had powers to stay the dragon's control of the heavens, as could thunderbolts in Macedonian myth.’
      • ‘I'm sure God, long famous in moments of pique for hurling His thunderbolts about the place, cannot enjoy having this kind of intellectual sissy claiming to speak for Him.’
      • ‘If God isn't prepared to send three million volts through her in the form of a thunderbolt then I think Mel shouldn't be too worried about His views on the matter.’
      • ‘While holding siege to the city of Thebes, Jupiter threw a thunderbolt at Capaneus who did not fall, but died standing up.’
      • ‘He rode in a bright chariot with a thunderbolt in his hand as his weapon (akin to Zeus of the Greeks and Thor of the Germans).’
      • ‘There's a reason the ancient Greeks thought Zeus hurled thunderbolts - you need an explanation for that kind of unpredictable terror.’
      • ‘When Julius entered, Michelangelo - like Zeus with his thunderbolts - hurled planks from the scaffolding down at the Holy Father, routing him from the chapel.’
      • ‘Phillip Adams is right for once: No just god could have let this happen, nor restrained his thunderbolts, either, as Luke Darcy was robbed of his Brownlow.’
      • ‘The Cyclopes gave Zeus the thunderbolt and Hades a helmet, gave Poseidon his trident.’
    2. 1.2 Used in similes and comparisons to refer to a very sudden or unexpected event or item of news, especially of an unpleasant nature.
      ‘the full force of what she had been told hit her like a thunderbolt’
      • ‘Her murder is a political thunderbolt that, if correctly harnessed, could single-handedly save the pro-euro cause.’
      • ‘My unmarried survey respondents seem to understand that friendship is the basis of a good marriage even as they hold out for chemistry and thunderbolts and soulmates.’
      • ‘Otherwise I'm going to have to conclude that this is a sort of disguised overnegation, a rhetorical thunderbolt that blows back semantically the wrong way.’
      • ‘The idea that we should not be worrying about terrorism I think has to strike as something of a thunderbolt to many people.’
      • ‘Soon, the thunderbolt arrived in the form of another news flash that legal battles could not be fought by anyone on matter relating to the emergency.’
      • ‘As with Powell, you can see it in her opinions in the early 1980s: the tentativeness, the discomfort with hurling judicial thunderbolts.’
      • ‘The rumblings from Argentina started to become thunderbolts and about a month later, a mad Arab destroyed the visible essence of western imperialism and capitalism.’
      • ‘The news was a thunderbolt to those who knew the couple.’
      • ‘It almost seemed a reversal of nature that there should be a reply to the thunderbolts of Clark.’
      • ‘September 17, 1999 was the day the Supreme Court's Marshall Decision struck the region's coastal communities like a thunderbolt.’
      • ‘Blair was at 35,000 feet, en route to Tokyo, when news of the scientist's suicide reached him like a thunderbolt on Friday morning.’
      • ‘This will come as a thunderbolt to all the campaigners who have fought for the retention of services in Down.’
      • ‘In Brahms, he burst on the stage with his wife, NYCB principal Jenifer Ringer, and thunderbolts started crashing.’
      • ‘The nomination of John Bolton hit the U.N. like a thunderbolt.’
      • ‘The words hit Michael like a thunderbolt and he slams the phone down, trying to think about what he should do next.’
      • ‘The feelings of concern for your own children is overwhelming, and hits you like a thunderbolt.’
      • ‘She burst into the late '60s-early 1970s like a thunderbolt with a mix of her own creative writing and versions of the legendary Bob Dylan: Revolution!’
      shock, surprise, bombshell, bolt from the blue, rude awakening, eye-opener
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    3. 1.3informal A very fast and powerful shot, throw, or stroke.
      • ‘Hardman Nutley was awesome despite wobbling like a rookie boxer hit by a Mike Tyson thunderbolt after a heavy collision early in the match.’
      • ‘Well, there's no arguing with Rooney when he scores a thunderbolt, is there?’
      • ‘Andy Ross had a go from 30 yards and unleashed a thunderbolt into the left-hand corner.’
      • ‘Twice in the first five minutes of the second half he launched thunderbolts towards James.’
      • ‘This let off gave Crettyard some breathing space and a confident Mark Kelly clattered the Monasterevin bar with a thunderbolt shot on 32 minutes.’
      • ‘In the 87th minute Trevor Whieldon broke up a Halton attack and found David Knapp on the right wing, Knapp fed Earnshaw, who completed his hat-trick with a thunderbolt shot from just inside the area.’
      • ‘The second half continued in the same vein with Evans saving spectacularly from a Connor thunderbolt.’
      • ‘Five minutes before the break, they came closer still, when a Davids thunderbolt cannoned off Reina.’
      • ‘The second half got off to an explosive start with a thunderbolt shot from 20 yards by John Lake which gave the Old Malton ‘keeper no chance.’
      • ‘It was McCrickard's decoy run that opened the way for half back dan Morgan to make a tremendous run through the middle be unleashing a thunderbolt shot.’
      • ‘Matt Oakley's first goal of the season, a thunderbolt 28 th-minute volley, set up Gordon Strachan's men for their first victory in six games.’
      • ‘Hogan exposed some poor Roscommon defending before unleashing a thunderbolt of a shot, which flew past Martin and almost burst the net.’
      • ‘Like Marshall, Lee is a different character out on the pitch where he hurls down his thunderbolts with a fearsome accuracy and hostility to take a wicket every 32 balls, one of the best strike rates ever.’
      • ‘Yi served thunderbolts through the tournament, before losing to Arun in the final.’
      • ‘However, he quickly made amends with a crisp strike at the end of another well-worked move and then flying winger Sam Crompton fired high into the net with a thunderbolt of a shot.’
      • ‘Just two minutes later, the marauding Jamaicans added the third when the goalkeeper failed to hold onto Damani Ralph's thunderbolt and Hyde responded fastest to ram home from inside the box.’
      • ‘Like all good strikers, he was in the right spot in the 15th minute after Paul Evans had crashed a thunderbolt against the inside of the post.’
      • ‘But they got back into the match thanks to a thunderbolt free kick from defender Lee Protheroe six minutes before the break.’
      • ‘From 20 yards out, his thunderbolt crashed off the underside of the crossbar to leave Terriers' goalkeeper Ian Gray clutching at air.’
      • ‘England were magnificent, but were undone by a movement of real grace and vision that began with Tostao and Pele and finished with a Jairzinho thunderbolt that flashed past Gordon Banks.’