Saint Elmo's fire


  • WordNet 3.6
    • n Saint Elmo's fire an electrical discharge accompanied by ionization of surrounding atmosphere
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Saint Elmo's fire a luminous, flamelike appearance, sometimes seen in dark, tempestuous nights, at some prominent point on a ship, particularly at the masthead and the yardarms. It has also been observed on land, and is due to the discharge of electricity from elevated or pointed objects. A single flame is called a Helena, or a Corposant; a double, or twin, flame is called a Castor and Pollux, or a double Corposant. It takes its name from St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors.
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In literature:

He looked round the room, but his niece had vanished "like Saint-Elmo's fires," to use his favorite expression.
"The Ball at Sceaux" by Honore de Balzac