"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.).
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.
updated on October 19, 2022