The word bomba can translate to English as any of the following, depending on the region:

  • bomb
  • pump
  • spray
  • major piece of news
  • bubble
  • fire truck
  • fire station
  • gas station
  • light bulb in some areas
  • plus a few more...

That always confused me, as most of those are very different concepts to me as a native English speaker. How did a single Spanish word come to mean all those things? What is the word's etymology?

  • 4
    "bomba" dosen't means "bubble". I think you mistook "bomba" with "pompa", this one it does means "bubble".
    – Jaume
    Jul 8, 2014 at 21:18
  • 2
    It can also be used when you talk about something you like very much: "Este libro es la bomba" X) Jul 9, 2014 at 8:32
  • One more meaning with similar roots I think: Arroz bomba A variety of short grained rice grown in Spain with particular usage in paella making. It has a structure that allows it to swell up without bursting during the cooking process.
    – BrianA
    Jul 14, 2014 at 9:35
  • It can mean light bulb in Argentina. My sis-in-law asks for bombas or bombitas.
    – user5444
    Aug 14, 2014 at 19:27
  • In Hindi, bomba means pump. In Malay, bomba as means fire brigrade. Oct 3, 2019 at 23:59

4 Answers 4


I think most of the meanings you outline are variations on two basic meanings, namely "bomb" and "pump". For example, "gas station" and "fire station" seem to be obvious extensions of the word "pump", since both stations are based on a pump.

The use of "bomba" meaning a piece of news is, IMO, figurative. In English we sometimes refer to a sensational news item as a "bombshell". Back in the 1940s, "bombshell" also was used to refer to an exceptionally pretty girl.

With regard to a single word having a multitude of meanings, English is probably the worst language of them all.

  • 2
    I completely agree with WalterMitty. The other words can be thought of as slang or jargon based upon the two, shall we say, dictionary meanings.
    – Paul
    Sep 9, 2012 at 17:36
  • 1
    Just to add to Walter Mitty's answer, the use of bomba to refer to gas station, fire station, or fire truck is a good example of a synecdoche. Dec 10, 2012 at 20:34
  • For example, the english word spring has many loosely related meaning and yet it is frequently used. It can refer to a season, a natural aquifer, the act of jumping forward, something that propels you forward, the act of breaking someone out of prison, or (rarely) to spend money depending on the context of its usage.
    – Jack G
    May 20, 2018 at 21:46

The common theme of "bomba" seems to be something that "explodes," or "sprays."

That is certainly true of "bomb." But it can also apply to a "pump" that "sprays.'

Fire trucks and stations are the "homes" of these pumps that spray, and firemen are called "bomberos" in Spanish.

This meaning could be figuratively true of "news," or "bubbles."


I can think of so many words with such wide, strange arrays of meanings that to me, the multiple meanings of "bomba" is really nothing special. In most cases, an imaginative mind can extrapolate why a word has taken on an extended, possibly figurative meaning with no problem.

Consider "major piece of news". The idea of something extremely urgent or important has figurative ties with explosions, bombs, etc. in every language I'm familiar with. "Bubble" might come from the stereotypical shape of bombs, or the fact that a bubble pops like a bomb explodes, etc.


Checking an ethimological dictionary, it seems the word 'bomba' comes from the French word 'bombe', which comes from the Italian 'bomba' and the original latin word, 'bombus' (which probably comes from the Greek 'bombos' The original meaning was 'a deep and intense loud sound'. So, that's the origin of the bomb meaning of the word. The other meanings (pump, having fun, etc) probably have an onomatopoeic origin from indoeuropean and languages derived from it (for example, 'bumbeti' in Lituanian, 'bumba' in Scandinavian)

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