The Meaning of Airborne: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what the word airborne means? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the English language word airborne, including its definition, usage, origin, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word airborne mean?

The English language word airborne, pronounced “ˈɛrˌbɔrn” has a few different definitions, according to Merriam-Webster English Dictionary, Dictionary, and other dictionary apps. All of these different definitions relate to something being in the air or above ground. The first definition of airborne is done or being in the air, or being off the ground. This can mean that something is being carried through the air, such as via an aircraft of sorts, something that is supported by aerodynamics, or something that is transported by the air. This distinction is important. Something being carried through the air can refer to an aircraft or bird, but something being carried by the air is often used in reference to allergens or pathogens– illnesses that can make people very sick. 

The second definition of the word airbornes is used to refer to someone who is specifically trained for deployment via air, especially as it relates to parachuting. Airborne troops, infantry, and paratroopers are trained to use parachutes in combat. 

Third, the word airborne can be used to refer to something called aeronautics. This term is used in regards to an aircraft and describes it as something that is solely supported by the atmosphere. The atmosphere is what keeps a plane aloft or flying.

What is the origin of the word airborne?

According to Etymonline, the word airborne has been in existence since the 1640s. This word has been used to describe military units since 1937. Etymonline states that the prefix air is related to the prefix aero, which is used in reference to things in the air, from the Greek aer. This similar prefix gives us words like aerosol, as well as words in other languages like the Portuguese word aerotransportado, a synonym for airborne.

What are synonyms for the word airborne?

There are numerous different ways that one can describe something that is flying or existing in the air. Some of these different words have different connotations regarding speed, movement, or height. One might choose to use one of these synonyms because they might be more appropriate or descriptive in certain contexts. One could also choose to use a synonym to avoid repeating themselves or to expand their vocabulary. This long list of potential synonyms for the word airborne is provided by Thesaurus.

  • waving
  • winging
  • zooming
  • aeronautical
  • flapping
  • fleet
  • avian
  • mercurial
  • on the wing
  • fluttering
  • gliding
  • speedy
  • volant
  • aerial
  • floating
  • soaring
  • volar
  • volitant
  • soaring
  • drifting
  • express
  • plumed
  • streaming
  • swooping

How can the word airborne be used in a sentence?

The word airborne can be used in a plethora of different circumstances in reference to many different things that exist in the air, from planes, to animals, to microscopic particles, the word airborne is very versatile. In this first example, Linny is giving a presentation to her classmates on the importance of reducing carbon emissions. She did her research on

Linny: As you can see, it is important to reduce our carbon emissions to make the air cleaner for us and our planet’s future inhabitants.

Classmate: Is it really that bad? I mean, the air looks fine to me.

Linny: While our air quality may appear fine at first glance, these airborne pollutants can be microscopic and impossible to see. They could be getting into our lungs and we don’t even know it.

Here, Linny uses the word airborne to describe potential pollutants in the air due to carbon emissions. In this next scenario, Linny asks her mom about how the coronavirus works and why they have to wear masks.

Linny: I know that we have to wear masks, but I don’t really understand why. If I’m not sharing a drink or anything with someone who is sick, how could I get sick?

Mom: Remember that presentation you did on carbon emissions? It’s similar to that. Microscopic pathogens – sick particles – come out of the mouth or nose of an infected person with a cough or a sneeze and become airborne. If we don’t wear masks, we risk these getting into our own bodies and making us sick. And if an infected person doesn’t wear a mask, they risk spreading it.

Linny: Oh, I get it now!

Here, Linny’s mom uses the word airborne to describe how viral particles can live in the air and make people sick, explaining to Linny why it is important to wear a mask. In the next example, Linny’s class has taken a field trip to the zoo. They are looking at the small marsupial exhibit. Linny asks a question to the zookeeper.

Linny: What are those little stripey ones?

Zookeeper: Those are sugar gliders! When they open their limbs out like a starfish, they act like a parachute and can stay airborne for 50-150 meters!

Linny: Wow!

Here, the zookeeper uses the word airborne to describe how the sugar gliders stay in the air. Finally, Linny and her family are flying to Hawaii for a family vacation.

Stewardess: Prepare for take-off. Once we are airborne, we will turn off the fasten seat belt sign and you can feel free to move about the cabin.

Linny: Does that mean I can pee?

Mom: Yes, honey. As soon as that light goes off.

Here, the stewardess uses the word airborne to describe the aircraft they are all on.

Overall, the word airborne is used to describe things that are in flight or existing in the air. This can be used to describe anything from pathogens to aircrafts to animals, and more.