1. a small coloured bag of thin rubber that you fill with air, used as a child’s toy or a decoration
a. a large strong bag filled with gas or hot air that can float in the air. Some balloons have a large basket hanging under them in which people can travel
2. a circle around the words spoken by characters in cartoon drawings
Origin and usage
The word balloon likely comes from the Italian word ‘pallone’ meaning ‘large ball’. In the 1570s, balloon was a popular game played using a large inflated leather ball that was kicked or tossed back and forth; by the 1590s, the word balloon was used to refer to the ball itself. By 1784, balloon was also used to describe a ‘bag or vessel filled with heated air or helium so as to rise and float in the air’.
Balloon is a noun that most commonly refers to a colourful piece of thin rubber or plastic that can be inflated and used as a toy or decoration. Balloons are popular decorations for birthday celebrations and other festive events, and their bright colours and patterns usually make people happy.
There is, however, a condition known as globophobia — a real (if unreasonable) fear of balloons. It belongs to the same class of disorders that distinguishes people’s fear of heights or enclosed spaces.
People with globophobia may be afraid of balloons themselves or of the loud noise a balloon makes when it is popped. They may experience shortness of breath, numbing or tingling in the arms and legs, dizzy spells or fainting. In some cases, people with an extreme fear of balloons may even suffer convulsions or brief loss of consciousness.
“The famous are balloons far up in the sky, to be envied for their quiet freedom or shot down as enemies.”