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Does the phrase "meteoric rise" connote that the rise is short-lived? Particularly bright? Generally lateral?

It just seems like a meteor is not the best metaphor for a triumphant and lasting ascendancy.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Not necessarily short-lived, however this definition does include brevity

Similar to a meteor in speed, brilliance, or brevity: a meteoric rise to fame.

And here's a discussion on this with a counterpoint:

its use certainly bothers Guy Keleny, as he explains in The Independent’s Errors and Omissions column:

“Meteoric” has acquired a meaning almost opposite to the one it started out with. The writer… describing the company’s rise as meteoric, meant to convey that it has been swift and spectacular. But meteors do not rise; they fall. They blaze briefly in the night sky and as quickly disappear. So a meteoric career is one of spectacular success followed by sudden oblivion.

I’m not so sure. Meteors travel very fast indeed (albeit downwards) thus perhaps justifying the use of ’meteoric’ in the phrase ‘meteoric rise’. And the Oxford Dictionary of English happily allows that one definition of ‘meteoric’ is ‘very rapid’.

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+1 and meteors do not reach destination being burne on their way –  Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Feb 12 '11 at 6:05

Meteoric in this case refers to speed, not direction. My Webster's gives it a figurative meaning of (of the development of something, esp. a person's career) very rapid : her meteoric rise to the top of her profession.

Nevertheless, since the direction a meteor takes is downward, the term may occasion a little merriment, and I can imagine cases where it could be used ironically.

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From several sources:

A meteoroid is a sand- to boulder-sized particle of debris in the Solar System. The visible path of a meteoroid that enters Earth's (or another body's) atmosphere is called a meteor, or colloquially a shooting star or falling star. If a meteoroid reaches the ground and survives impact, then it is called a meteorite.

Thus a meteor may transect the earth's atmosphere in any direction but always quickly and, by virtue of its speed and the finite size of the atmosphere, briefly. Thus a meteoric career is rapid and brief.

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protected by tchrist Dec 14 '13 at 16:30

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