Definition of vacuum in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈvakjuːm/

noun (plural vacuums or vacua /ˈvakjʊə/)

1A space entirely devoid of matter.
Example sentences
  • Since by definition it contains no matter, the vacuum of space itself has NO temperature.
  • They operate like any rocket engine in the vacuum of space, by propelling gases in one direction to create an opposite and equal force on the craft.
  • I am curious as to exactly when scientists found out that space is a vacuum and not made up of ether?
empty space, emptiness, void, nothingness, vacuity, vacancy
rare voidness, nihility
1.1A space or container from which the air has been completely or partly removed.
Example sentences
  • The chamber was then put into a vacuum overnight to remove any remaining trace of organic solvent.
  • After venting to release the vacuum, he removed the detector flange.
  • He creates a vacuum in a glass container, and places one atom of carbon into it.
1.2 [usually in singular] A gap left by the loss, death, or departure of someone or something significant: the political vacuum left by the death of the Emperor
More example sentences
  • The vacuum created by their departure was filled by the club's most committed supporters, who set about raising money and bringing the club back from the brink.
  • The vacuum created by his death 24 years back still remains unfilled.
  • In rural Scotland the retiral of a sitting MP always creates a vacuum which other political parties rush to fill.
gap, space, absence, lack, deficiency, blank, lacuna
2 (plural vacuums) A vacuum cleaner.
Example sentences
  • It would be another ten years before the electric vacuum, iron, and frying pan became available as consumer products.
  • Distractions such as rattles, music, or even running a vacuum, washing machine, or blow-dryer may be amusing or comforting to your baby.
  • This is a combination stick and handheld (dust buster style) vacuum and is proving to be perfect for my small apartment.
vacuum cleaner
British informal vac
trademark Hoover


[with object]
Clean with a vacuum cleaner: the room needs to be vacuumed
More example sentences
  • I was sick of being the only one who vacuumed common areas, cleaned the bath and toilet or did a load of dishes without quibbling whether I'd eaten off them.
  • Kids don't care if the room has been vacuumed and cleaned.
  • Apparently while I've been at work my son has cleaned up the house, even vacuuming it!
British  hoover


in a vacuum

(Of an activity or a problem to be considered) isolated from the normal context in which it can best be understood or assessed: professional training cannot take place in a vacuum
More example sentences
  • We cannot exist in a vacuum, in isolation from what's happening in other parts of the world.
  • All this artistic and scientific activity did not, of course, take place in a vacuum.
  • While the film may be primarily an artistic statement, it does not exist like so much art, in a vacuum, but is placed firmly in context.


Mid 16th century: modern Latin, neuter of Latin vacuus 'empty'.

  • This modern Latin word is from Latin vacuus ‘empty’, a base shared by mid 17th-century vacuous meaning, in early examples, ‘empty of matter’. ‘Unintelligent’ became one of the word's meanings in the mid 19th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: vac¦uum

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.