nuclear (adj.)

1841, "of or like the nucleus of a cell," from nucleus + -ar, probably by influence of French nucléaire. General sense of "central" is from 1912. In atomic physics, "of or belonging to the nucleus of an atom," from 1914; of weapons deriving their destructive power from nuclear reactions, by 1945.

Hence nuclear energy (1930), nuclear physics (1933), nuclear war (1954). Nuclear winter was coined by U.S. atmospheric scientist Richard Turco but is first attested in article by Carl Sagan in "Parade" magazine, Oct. 30, 1983. Nuclear family, originally a sociologists' term, is first attested 1949 in "Social Structure," by American anthropologist G.P. Murdock (1897-1985). Alternative adjective nucleal is recorded from 1840, probably from French.

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Definitions of nuclear from WordNet

nuclear (adj.)
(weapons) deriving destructive energy from the release of atomic energy;
nuclear war
nuclear weapons
Synonyms: atomic
nuclear (adj.)
of or relating to or constituting the nucleus of an atom;
nuclear forces
nuclear fission
nuclear physics
nuclear (adj.)
of or relating to or constituting the nucleus of a cell;
nuclear division
nuclear membrane
nuclear (adj.)
constituting or like a nucleus;
annexation of the suburban fringe by the nuclear metropolis
the nuclear core of the congregation