Dirigible or blimp

A dirigible and a blimp are both airships, but with different characteristics. We will look at the difference between the terms dirigible and blimp, where the words come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

The word dirigible literally describes something that is capable of being directed or steered. The word dirigible is an adjective, though it is rarely used as an adjective anymore. It has come to mean a steerable airship. Originally the term was dirigible airship or steerable airship. Over time, it was shortened to dirigible, derived from the French word diriger which means to direct or to guide. Today, a dirigible is an airship that has a rigid support structure, first built in 1895. A Zeppelin is a dirigible built by the Zeppelin Airship Construction Company. The Hindenburg was also a dirigible.

A blimp is an airship that does not have a rigid support structure, the balloon part of the blimp maintains its shape simply by the pressure of the gas filling the balloon. The Goodyear blimp is a well-known blimp. Airships are filled with helium gas, which is a gas that is lighter than air. Early airships used hydrogen gas which was cheaper than helium but much more flammable. This was a contributing factor to the tragic demise of the Hindenburg. Early airships were used primarily for transportation and in war, today’s airships are primarily used to advertise products. Other meanings of the word blimp is the British use to mean a pompous, reactionary person or the American use to mean a fat person. The term blimp was first used in 1916, it is unknown where the word comes from.


Helen worked on the massive dirigible engines, allowing her to get an up-close and personal view of the aviation marvels. (The Clinton Herald)

And for those who’ve come to expect to spot a Goodyear blimp at important sporting events, Wingfoot Two is equipped with enhanced aerial television coverage, according to a press release detailing the event. (The Washington Post)



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