What does ‘fulminating’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: fulminating….

When I read the novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple, I didn’t expect to find my word of the week. I was grateful enough to have an intelligent and satisfying “beach read” that was funny enough to make me laugh aloud.

Then Semple used a word that was unfamiliar to me, even though I could guess its meaning, thanks to context. That word was fulminating. Here’s how she used it:

All the energy she had once channeled so fearlessly into architecture, she turned toward fulminating about Seattle, in the form of wild rants that required no less than an hour to fully express.

As you may know — or at least can guess — the word means protesting, denouncing or condemning something. The origin of the word is Latinate. It comes from fulminatus, past participle of fulminare meaning to “hurl lightning,” Interestingly, some of its meaning is derived from Medieval Latin, when it was used to describe formal condemnation by members of the Christian church.

One other footnote: there is a special medical meaning attached to the word when it is used as an adjective. In that case, it refers to a disease or symptom that develops suddenly and severely — for example, fulminating appendicitis.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Aug. 16.17.


Scroll to Top