lightning in a bottle



  • A difficult or challenging feat, particularly to attempt such a feat.
  • Great, unlikely, fleeting success, particularly entrepreneurial or in the media.
  • Ephemeral state or atmosphere, as at a startup company or artistic group.


Similar words


  • Originally (19th century) a literal reference to Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment, capturing electricity from lightning and storing it in a Leyden jar, along with variants such as bottled lightning.
  • Later used in baseball context in sense “difficult feat”, from circa 1941, attributed to Leo Durocher. Wider use grew in 1980s and 1990s, particularly in sense “great, fleeting success”, and popular since 2000s.

Modern English dictionary

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