Etymology
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bomb (v.)

1680s, "fire bombs at, attack with bombs" (marked archaic in Century Dictionary, 1889, but quite revived in 20c.), from bomb (n.). The slang meaning "fail" is attested from 1963; that of "move or travel quickly" is from 1966. Related: Bombed; bombing. Slang bombed "drunk" is attested by 1956.

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bomb (n.)

"explosive projectile," originally consisting of a hollow ball or shell filled with explosive material, 1580s, from French bombe, from Italian bomba, probably from Latin bombus "a deep, hollow noise; a buzzing or booming sound," from Greek bombos "deep and hollow sound," echoic. Thus probably so called for the sound it makes.

Originally of mortar shells, etc.; modern sense of "explosive device placed by hand or dropped from airplane" is from 1909. The meaning "old car" is from 1953. The meaning "success" is from 1954 (late 1990s slang the bomb "the best" probably is a fresh formation); opposite sense of "a failure" is from 1961. The bomb "the atomic bomb" is from 1945. Compare shell (n.).

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bomb-proof (adj.)

"strong enough to resist the impact and explosive force of bombs or shells striking on the outside" [Century Dictionary], 1702, from bomb (n.) + proof (n.). As a noun, "underground structure strong enough to resist the impact and explosive force of bombs," 1755. In the U.S. Civil War it was a contemptuous term for men not exposed to the dangers of war.

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carpet-bombing (n.)

"the dropping of a large number of bombs on an entire area to inflict intense damage," 1945, from carpet (v.) + bomb (v.). Related: Carpet-bomb; carpet-bombed.

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firebomb (n.)

also fire-bomb, 1895 (earlier as a type of fireworks and a type of cannonball), from fire (n.) + bomb (n.). As a verb, from 1950 as an act of vandalism or terrorism, from 1941 as a military aviation tactic. Related: Firebombed; firebombing.

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hand-grenade (n.)

"bomb thrown by hand," 1660s, from hand (n.) + grenade.

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bombing (n.)

"an attack with bombs," 1610s, verbal noun from bomb (v.).

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thermonuclear (adj.)

1938 with reference to stars, 1953 of weapons (technically only to describe the hydrogen bomb), from thermo- + nuclear.

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A 

first letter of the Roman alphabet, based on Greek alpha (see alpha). In music from c. 1600 as the name of the sixth note of the natural scale; it is the note given by a fixed-tone instrument (usually oboe or organ) to which all the instruments of an orchestra are tuned. As a blood type, 1926, denoting A agglutinogens. The A side of a two-sided record (by 1962, see side (n.)) held the material chosen for promotion. A-bomb, short for atom bomb, was in newspaper headlines by Aug. 8, 1945.

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bombshell (n.)

also bomb-shell, 1708, "mortar-thrown shell which explodes upon falling," from bomb (n.) + shell (n.).

BOMB, or BOMB SHELL, now called simply Shell (Fr. Bombe). A hollow iron ball or shell filled with gunpowder, having a vent or fuze-hole into which a fuzee is fitted to set the powder on fire after the shell is thrown out of a mortar. This destructive missile is intended to do injury both by its force in falling, and by bursting after it falls. [Arthur Young, "Nautical Dictionary," London, 1863]

The figurative sense of "shattering or devastating thing or event" is attested by 1859. In reference to a pretty woman "of startling vitality or physique" [OED], especially a blonde, it is attested by 1942. "Bombshell" as title of a movie starring blond U.S. actress Jean Harlow (1911-1937) is from 1933; it was believed to have been loosely based on the life of screen star Clara Bow.

The producers of the current hilarious Jean Harlow-Lee Tracy photoplay were not satisfied with the original title "Bombshell" so they renamed it "The Blond Bombshell." We wonder, in passing, why they didn't call it "The Private Life of Clara Bow" originally and let it go at that. [The Oklahoma News, Nov. 19, 1933]
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