An explosive is a substance that can be made to explode by being hit or lit on fire. You might use an explosive to create a tunnel through a mountain — but you probably shouldn't use one to clear weeds from your yard.

Explosives contain highly reactive chemicals that are full of potential energy, which can be released with a bang. You can also use the word explosive as an adjective, to describe such substances or anything else that is dramatic, abrupt, or loud. You might say that your brother has an explosive temper sometimes, or that your snow shoveling business has seen explosive growth this winter. The Latin root is explodere, "drive out."

Definitions of explosive

n a chemical substance that undergoes a rapid chemical change (with the production of gas) on being heated or struck

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burster, bursting charge, charge, explosive charge
a quantity of explosive to be set off at one time
explosive compound
a compound that is explosive
explosive mixture
a mixture that is explosive
impulse explosive, propellant explosive
an explosive that is used to propel projectiles from guns or to propel rockets and missiles or to launch torpedos and depth charges
load, payload, warhead
the front part of a guided missile or rocket or torpedo that carries the nuclear or explosive charge or the chemical or biological agents
HN, azoimide, hydrazoic acid, hydrogen azide
a colorless explosive liquid that is volatile and poisonous and foul-smelling
high explosive
a powerful chemical explosive that produces gas at a very high rate
low explosive
an explosive with a low rate of combustion
gunpowder, powder
a mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur in a 75:15:10 ratio which is used in gunnery, time fuses, and fireworks
Ballistite, smokeless powder
an explosive (trade name Ballistite) that burns with relatively little smoke; contains pyrocellulose and is used as a propellant
nitramine, tetryl
a yellow crystalline explosive solid that is used in detonators
atomic warhead, nuclear warhead, nuke, thermonuclear warhead
the warhead of a missile designed to deliver an atom bomb
blasting gelatin
mixture of guncotton with nitroglycerin
explosive powder (nitroglycerin and guncotton and petrolatum) dissolved in acetone and dried and extruded in brown cords
bursting explosive, disrupting explosive
a high explosive that is used to damage the target that is under attack
an explosive containing nitrate sensitized with nitroglycerin absorbed on wood pulp
firework, pyrotechnic
(usually plural) a device with an explosive that burns at a low rate and with colored flames; can be used to illuminate areas or send signals etc.
plastic explosive, plastique
an explosive material that is easily molded around the object it is intended to destroy
an explosive charge used in blasting
TNT, trinitrotoluene
explosive consisting of a yellow crystalline compound that is a flammable toxic derivative of toluene
an insufficient charge
rocket fuel, rocket propellant, rocket propellent
an explosive charge that propels a rocket
Type of:
chemical, chemical substance
material produced by or used in a reaction involving changes in atoms or molecules

adj serving to explode or characterized by explosion or sudden outburst

“an explosive device”
explosive gas”
explosive force”
explosive violence”
“an explosive temper”
exploding almost instantaneously
not explosive

adj sudden and loud

“an explosive laugh”
happening without warning or in a short space of time

adj liable to lead to sudden change or violence

“an explosive issue”
lacking stability or fixity or firmness

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