1. a great wave or surge of the sea.
  2. any surging mass: billows of smoke.

verb (used without object)

  1. to rise or roll in or like billows; surge.
  2. to swell out, puff up, etc., as by the action of wind: flags billowing in the breeze.

verb (used with object)

  1. to make rise, surge, swell, or the like: A sudden wind billowed the tent alarmingly.


  1. a large sea wave
  2. a swelling or surging mass, as of smoke or sound
  3. a large atmospheric wave, usually in the lee of a hill
  4. (plural) poetic the sea itself


  1. to rise up, swell out, or cause to rise up or swell out

1550s, perhaps older in dialectal use, from Old Norse bylgja “a wave, a billow,” from Proto-Germanic *bulgjan (cf. Middle High German bulge “billow, bag”), from PIE *bhelgh- “to swell” (see belly (n.)).


1590s, from billow (n.). Related: Billowed; billowing.

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