Word of the Day


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a curved line of colours that appears in the sky when the sun shines while it is raining

Origin and usage

The word rainbow comes from the Old English word ‘renboga’, which is derived from the words ‘regn’ meaning ‘rain’ and ‘boga’ meaning ‘anything bent or arched’.


The word rainbow refers to a weather phenomenon that takes place during or immediately after a rain shower. A band of colours appears in the sky, forming a wide arc.

Rainbows are caused by sunlight reflecting off water droplets in the air, which is why rainbows are always formed directly opposite the position of the sun in the sky. Though a rainbow can sometimes form a complete circle, we can usually only see the part of the arc that extends above the ground, where light shines through raindrops.

Sometimes, a double rainbow may form. In a double rainbow, a second arc appears outside the original arc, though the colours of the second arc are usually lighter and the order of its colours is reversed to create a mirror image of the primary rainbow.

There are many legends about finding treasure or good luck at the end of a rainbow, but rainbows are really just a trick of light on the eye, not physical things people can touch or even get close to.


“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.”
(Lord Byron)

“Let no one who loves be called altogether unhappy; even love unreturned has its rainbow.”
(James M. Barrie)

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”
(G. K. Chesterton)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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