May 23, 2013
- nebula (noun)
- What does it mean?
- 1 : any of many huge clouds of gas or dust in deep space2 : galaxy
- How do you use it?
- Astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that some nebulae lie outside the Milky Way galaxy, a discovery that encouraged important new research about the universe.
- Are you a word wiz?
Science fiction films let you discover new galaxies, worlds, and creatures. We'll give you a chance to discover the origin of the word "nebula." Where do you think that word came from?"Nebula" traces back to a Latin word meaning "mist" or "cloud"; it is also much more distantly related to the Greek word for "cloud," "nephos." In its earliest English uses in the 1600s, "nebula" referred to a cloudy speck or film on the eye that caused vision problems. It was first applied to great interstellar clouds of gas and dust in the early 1700s. The adjective "nebulous" comes from the same Latin root as "nebula," but the first uses of "nebulous" don't appear in English until the late 1700s, well after the English discovery of "nebula." You might have noticed from reading our example sentence that "nebula" is pluralized "nebulae," using the Latin plural. "Nebula" is also sometimes pluralized "nebulas," however.