1. Any of a class of powerful explosives composed of nitroglycerin or ammonium nitrate dispersed in an absorbent medium with a combustible dope, such as wood pulp, and an antacid, such as calcium carbonate, used in blasting and mining.
a. Something exceptionally exciting or wonderful.
b. Something exceptionally dangerous: These allegations are political dynamite.
tr.v. dy·na·mit·ed, dy·na·mit·ing, dy·na·mites
To blow up, shatter, or otherwise destroy with dynamite.
Outstanding; superb: a dynamite performance; a dynamite outfit.
[Swedish dynamit, from Greek dunamis, power; see DYNAMIC.]
Word History: The Nobel Prizes were established by the Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) with funds from his immense personal fortune, amassed in part through the manufacture of explosives and armaments. Nobel was the inventor of dynamite—he had discovered that the highly explosive chemical compound nitroglycerine could be made easier to transport and handle if it was mixed with an inert substance. To name his mixture, Nobel invented the word dynamite. Originally coined in Swedish in the form dynamit, the word was compounded from Greek dunamis, "power," and the Swedish suffix -it, which corresponds to the English suffix -ite used to form the names of rocks, minerals, commercial products, and other substances. Greek dunamis also gave us words such as dynamic and dynamo. Dunamis is related to the Greek verb dunasthai, "to be able," from which comes English dynasty, denoting a family or group that wields power over several generations.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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