balloon /bəˈluːn/


I. noun

1. a small coloured rubber bag which is inflated with air and then sealed at the neck, used as a child’s toy or a decoration.

the room was festooned with balloons and streamers.

‹figurative› his derision pricked the fragile balloon of her vanity.

2. (also hot-air balloon) a large bag filled with hot air or gas to make it rise in the air, typically one carrying a basket for passengers

he set his sights on crossing the Pacific by balloon.
3. a rounded outline in which the words or thoughts of characters in a comic strip or cartoon are written.

a balloon reading ‘Ka-Pow!’.
4. (also balloon glass) a large rounded drinking glass, used especially for brandy.

a balloon of armagnac.
‹informal› a stupid person.
II. verb [no obj.]

1. swell out in a spherical shape

the trousers ballooned out below his waist.
2. (of an amount of money spent or owed) increase rapidly

the company’s debt has ballooned in the last five years.
3. (of a person) increase rapidly in weight

I ate out of boredom and I just ballooned up.
(Brit.) (with reference to a ball) lob or be lobbed high in the air

the ball ballooned into the air.
5. travel by hot-air balloon

he is famous for ballooning across oceans.
III. phrases

when the balloon goes up

‹informal› when the action or trouble starts.

we’ve got to get our man out of there before the balloon goes up.
[probably with allusion to the release of a balloon to mark the start of an event.]
– origin late 16th cent. (originally denoting a game played with a large inflated leather ball): from French ballon or Italian ballone ‘large ball’.

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