a. A thin, usually spherical or hemispherical film of liquid filled with air or gas: a soap bubble.
b. A globular body of air or gas formed within a liquid: air bubbles rising to the surface.
c. A pocket formed in a solid by air or gas that is trapped, as during cooling or hardening.
2. The sound made by the forming and bursting of bubbles.
3. Something insubstantial, groundless, or ephemeral, especially a fantastic or impracticable idea or belief: didn't want to burst the new volunteers' bubble.
4. Something light or effervescent: "Macon—though terribly distressed—had to fight down a bubble of laughter" (Anne Tyler).
a. A usually transparent glass or plastic dome.
b. A protective, often isolating envelope or cover: "The Secret Service will talk of tightening protection, but no President wants to live in a bubble" (Anthony Lewis).
a. A usually oval outline, as on a ballot or a standardized test form, intended to be filled in using a pencil or pen.
b. A rounded or irregularly shaped outline, as in a cartoon or other drawing, containing a character's speech or thoughts, as represented by words or pictures.
7. Economics An increase in the price of a commodity, investment, or market that is not warranted by economic fundamentals and is usually caused by ongoing investment or speculation in the expectation that the price will increase further.
intr.v. bub·bled, bub·bling, bub·bles
1. To form or give off bubbles: soup bubbling on the stove.
2. To move or flow with a gurgling sound: a brook bubbling along its course.
a. To rise to the surface: gas bubbled up through the swamp water.
b. To become active or intense enough to come into prominence: "Since then, the revolution has bubbled up again in many forms" (Jonathan Schell).
4. To display irrepressible activity or emotion: The kids were bubbling over with excitement.
Capable of being categorized in one class or another; borderline: coaches evaluating bubble players to see which ones might play at a higher level.
on the bubble
On the brink of a new development or condition, especially in danger of being cut from a sports team: "These are the players on the bubble, the ones who are not sure if they have made the team" (Jason Diamos).
[From Middle English bubelen, to bubble.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. 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:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.