Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a vehicle shaped like a tube that travels in space

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The word rocket came into English in the early 17th century from Italian via French. The Italian word ‘rocchetto’ is a diminutive of ‘rocca’ meaning distaff. The connection between the two objects is their cylindrical shape.


It’s 50 years today since the Apollo 11 mission lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying the astronauts who four days later would be the first human beings to set foot on the moon. The Apollo spacecraft was launched by a Saturn V rocket which propelled Apollo into the trajectory that would  take it to the moon.  Like all space missions, Apollo 11 was the result of extraordinarily careful and complex teamwork by hundreds if not thousands of skilled people. There’s a good reason why we use the term rocket science to refer to a difficult and complex activity. We often say that a task or activity ‘is not rocket science’ to emphasize that it is simple and can be done by anyone. The Apollo missions were the result of rocket science of the highest order.


“We are off! And do we know it, not just because the world is yelling “Lift-off” in our ears, but because the seats of our pants tell us so! Trust your instruments, not your body, the modern pilot is always told, but this beast is best felt. Shake, rattle and roll!”
(Michael Collins, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys)

Related words

booster, launch, launch pad, liftoff

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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