AskDefine | Define balloon

Dictionary Definition



1 small thin inflatable rubber bag with narrow neck
2 large tough non-rigid bag filled with gas or heated air


1 ride in a hot-air balloon; "He tried to balloon around the earth but storms forced him to land in China"
2 become inflated; "The sails ballooned" [syn: inflate, billow]

User Contributed Dictionary



From ballon.


  • /bəˈluːn/
  • Rhymes with: -uːn


  1. An inflatable buoyant object, often (but not necessarily) round and flexible.
  2. Such an object as a child’s toy.
  3. Such an object designed to transport people through the air.
  4. A sac inserted into part of the body for therapeutic reasons; such as angioplasty.
  5. A speech bubble.
inflatable object
child’s toy
inflatable object to transport people through the air
sac inserted into part of the body
speech bubble See speech bubble


  1. To increase or expand rapidly.
    His stomach ballooned from eating such a large meal.
    Prices will balloon if we don't act quickly.

Extensive Definition

This article is about balloons in general. See also Balloon (aircraft) and Toy balloon.
A balloon is a flexible bag filled with a type of gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide or air. Early balloons were made of dried animal bladders. Modern balloons can be made from materials such as rubber, latex, polychloroprene or a nylon fabric. Some balloons are purely decorative, while others are used for specific purposes such as meteorology, medical treatment, military defense, or transportation. A balloon's properties, including its low density and relatively low cost, have led to a wide range of applications.


The first balloon was invented by Brazilian-born Portuguese priest, Bartolomeu de Gusmão, and the first public exhibition was to the Portuguese Court on August 8, 1709, in the hall of the Casa da India in Lisbon. The rubber balloon was invented by Michael Faraday in 1824; it was inflated with hydrogen and used in his experiments with that element.. The more familiar latex balloons of today were first manufactured in London, 1847, by J.G. Ingram, but mass production did not occur until the 1930s.


Decoration or entertainment

Party balloons are mostly made of natural latex tapped from rubber trees and can be filled with air, helium, water, or any other suitable liquid or gas. The rubber's elasticity makes the volume adjustable. Most of this rubber is made from recycled material, such as old tires and tennis shoes.
Filling the balloon with air is done with the mouth, with a manual or electric inflater (such as a hand pump), or with a source of compressed gas.
When rubber balloons are filled with helium so that they float, they typically retain their buoyancy for only a day or so. The enclosed helium atoms escape through small pores in the latex which are larger than the helium atoms. Balloons filled with air usually hold their size and shape much longer.
Even a perfect rubber balloon eventually loses the gas to the outside. The process by which a substance or solute migrates from a region of high concentration, through a barrier or membrane, to a region of lower concentration is called diffusion. The inside of balloons can be treated with a special gel (for instance, the polymer solution sold under the "Hi Float" brand) which coats the inside of the balloon to reduce the helium leakage, thus increasing float time to a week or longer.
Beginning in the late 1970s, some more expensive (and longer-lasting) foil balloons have been made of thin, unstretchable, less permeable metalized plastic films. These balloons have attractive shiny reflective surfaces and are often printed with color pictures and patterns for gifts and parties. The most important attribute of metalized nylon for balloons is its light weight, increasing buoyancy and its ability to keep the helium gas from escaping for several weeks. However, there has been some environmental concern, since the metalized nylon does not biodegrade or shred as a rubber balloon does, and a helium balloon released into the atmosphere can travel a long way before finally bursting or deflating. Release of these types of balloons into the atmosphere is considered harmful to the environment. This type of balloon can also conduct electricity on its surface and released foil balloons can become entangled in power lines and cause power outages.
Released balloons can land almost anywhere, including on nature preserves or other areas where they pose a serious hazard to animals through ingestion or entanglement. Latex balloons are especially dangerous to sea creatures because latex retains its elasticity for 12 months or more when exposed to sea water rather than air. Because of the harm to wildlife and the effect of litter on the environment, some jurisdictions even legislate to control mass balloon releases. Legislation proposed in Maryland, USA was named after Inky, a pygmy sperm whale who needed 6 operations after swallowing debris, the largest piece of which was a mylar balloon.
Professional balloon party decorators use electronic equipment to enable the exact amount of helium to fill the balloon. For non-floating balloons air inflators are used. Professional quality balloons are used, which differ from most retail packet balloons by being larger in size and made from 100% biodegradable latex.

Balloon modeling and balloons in art

Balloon artists are entertainers who twist and tie inflated tubular balloons into sculptures (see balloon animal). The balloons used for balloon sculpture are made of extra-stretchy rubber so that they can be twisted and tied without bursting. Since the pressure required to inflate a balloon is inversely proportional to the diameter of the balloon, these tiny tubular balloons are extremely hard to inflate initially. A pump is usually used to inflate these balloons.
Decorators may use hundreds of helium balloons to create balloon sculptures. Usually the round shape of the balloon restricts these to simple arches or walls, but on occasion more ambitious "sculptures" have been attempted. It is also common to use balloons as tables decorations for celebratory events. Table decorations normally appear with 3 or 5 balloons on each bouquet. Ribbon is curled and added with a weight to keep the balloons from floating away.Model of the Balloons

Water balloons

Water balloons are thin, small rubber balloons intended to be easily broken. They are usually used by children, who throw them at each other, trying to get each other wet, as a game or practical joke. They can be used in competitions or games. They are smaller than regular balloons.

Balloon rockets

Balloons are often deliberately released, creating so called balloon rocket or rocket balloon. Rocket balloons work because the elastic balloons contract on the air within them, and so when the mouth of the balloon is left open, the gas within the balloon shoots out, and, due to Newton's third law of motion, the balloon is propelled forward. This is fundamentally the same way that a rocket works.

Flying machines

Large balloons filled with hot air or buoyant gas have been used as flying machines since the 18th century. The earliest flights were made with hot air balloons using air heated with a flame, or hydrogen; later, helium was used.


Angioplasty is a surgical procedure in which very small balloons are inserted into blocked or partially blocked blood vessels near the heart. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to clear or compress arterial plaque, and to stretch the walls of the vessel, thus preventing myocardial infarction. A small stent can be inserted at the angioplasty site to keep the vessel open after the balloon's removal.
Balloon catheters are catheters that have balloons at their tip to keep them from slipping out. For example, the balloon of a Foley catheter is inflated when the catheter is inserted into the urinary bladder and secures its position.


External links

balloon in Arabic: بالون
balloon in Welsh: Balŵn
balloon in Danish: Ballon
balloon in German: Ballon
balloon in Spanish: Globo (juguete)
balloon in Persian: بادکنک
balloon in Croatian: Balon
balloon in Hebrew: בלון
balloon in Hungarian: Hőlégballon
balloon in Dutch: Ballon
balloon in Japanese: 風船
balloon in Norwegian Nynorsk: Ballong
balloon in Polish: Balon
balloon in Russian: Воздушный шарик
balloon in Swedish: Ballong
balloon in Vietnamese: Khí cầu
balloon in Turkish: Balon (dekoratif)
balloon in Chinese: 气球

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Graf Zeppelin, accrue, accumulate, advance, aeroplane, aerostat, air bubble, airlift, airplane, airship, appreciate, bag, ball, ballonet, be airborne, bead, belly, belly out, bilge, billow, bladder, bleb, blimp, blister, bloat, blob, blood blister, boll, bolus, boom, bouge, breed, broaden, bubble, bug, bulb, bulbil, bulblet, bulge, bulk, bulla, captive balloon, conglobulate, crescendo, cruise, develop, dilate, dirigible, dirigible balloon, distend, drift, ellipsoid, enlarge, expand, extend, ferry, fever blister, fill out, flit, fly, fob, gain, gain strength, gasbag, geoid, get ahead, glide, globe, globelet, globoid, globule, glomerulus, go up, gob, gobbet, goggle, greaten, grow, hop, hover, hydroplane, increase, intensify, jet, knob, knot, lighter-than-air craft, mount, multiply, mushroom, navigate, oblate spheroid, orb, orbit, orblet, pellet, pilot balloon, pocket, poke, pooch, pop, pouch, pout, prolate spheroid, proliferate, puff up, rigid airship, rise, rondure, round out, run up, sac, sack, sail, sailplane, sausage, seaplane, semirigid airship, ship, shoot up, snowball, soap bubble, soar, sphere, spherify, spheroid, spherule, spread, strengthen, stretch, swell, swell out, take the air, take wing, tumefy, vesicle, volplane, wax, weather balloon, widen, wing, zeppelin
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