General English

General Science

  • verb to burst, or to make something burst, violently



  • verb to make a picture of an object such as a car engine showing the parts inside, each part being shown separately but in the correct relationship to the rest

Origin & History of “explode”

The use of explode to mean ‘burst with destructive force’ is a comparatively recent, late 19th-century development. The Latin verb explōdere, from which it comes, signified something quite different – ‘drive off the stage with hisses and boos’ (it was a compound formed from the prefix ex- ‘out’ and plaudere ‘clap’, source of English applaud and plaudits). From this developed the figurative sense ‘reject, disapprove’, which was how the word was used when it was first taken over into English: ‘Not that I wholly explode Astrology; I believe there is something in it’, Thomas Tryon, Miscellanea 1696 (the modern notion of ‘exploding a theory’ is descended from this usage). In the 17th century, however, the Latin verb’s original sense was reintroduced, and it survived into the 19th century: ‘In the playhouse when he doth wrong, no critic is so apt to hiss and explode him’, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones 1749. towards the end of the 17th century we find the first traces of a metaphorical use that combines the notion of ‘driving out, expelling’ with ‘loud noise’ (‘the effects of lightning, exploded from the Clouds’, Robert plot, Natural history of Staffordshire 1679), but it was not to be for more than a century that the meaning element ‘drive out’ was replaced by the ‘burst, shatter’ of present-day English explode (Dr Johnson makes no mention of it in his Dictionary 1755, e.g.). today the notion of ‘bursting violently’ is primary, that of ‘loud noise’ probably secondary, although still present.