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Jun 5, 2018
Lexical Lab

Intermediate word of the day: boom

A boom is a sudden big noise like the sound of thunder or a bomb exploding, but more frequently, we use the word boom to mean a sudden big increase or growth. So when the economy grows a lot, you have an economic boom and a business or industry can experience a boom in sales. We might also then say there’s a boom in people starting their own business.

Notice we usually use boom to talk about things we see as positive. So we say a country is enjoying a boom in tourism, but we don’t usually say there’s been a boom in accidents or a cancer boom! Normally, we’d say there’s been a sharp rise in accidents or deaths (from cancer) have shot up. What other things do you think can have a boom? Pause for a moment and write a list.

Well, you can have a baby boom (a sudden increase in the birth rate), and a construction boom – which could also be a building boom or a housing boom.

There might be a consumer boom (when people spend more), a boom in investment and a boom in business.

A business or industry might experience a prolonged boom – in other words, it grows a lot quite suddenly and then continues to grow. So, for example, China has seen a prolonged boom since the early 90s. The opposite of a prolonged boom might be a short-lived boom.

Finally, notice that boom can be used as a verb as well as a noun, so for example, My next door neighbours had a party last night and when I got home, music was booming out of their flat. While most countries in Europe are in recession in 2018, apparently Vietnam is booming along with the Philippines and lots of other countries in south-east Asia.

When we talk about booms, we might also talk about what led to the boom (how it started), what happens during the boom as it gathers pace and perhaps even how the boom ends, because unfortunately we often talk about boom and bust – a big increase that’s followed by a terrible crash! If you take a housing boom, why might it start? what happens? how might it end? Apparently, cycling in the UK is booming – why might that be and what’s happening? Pause for a moment an think of some ideas for these two booms.

Housing booms can happen for several different reasons. For instance, in Saudi Arabia there has been a massive increase in the population – a baby boom that has seen the population quadruple. There is, therefore, huge demand, but a shortage of housing. So now tower blocks are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. The government has also provided incentives for property developers because there is no land tax and no capital gains tax (that’s right – the companies pay NO tax!!), so all the profits go to the developers. No wonder there’s a building boom.

The housing boom in Spain and Ireland was triggered because banks relaxed their rules about lending, so more people could raise money to speculate. As the boom gathered pace, this increased speculation led to the supply outstripping demand (there were more homes than buyers). When this happened, prices started to fall, a recession began, the housing bubble burst and the market collapsed.

As for cycling in Britain, it has increased for a number of reasons. Firstly, The government is trying to discourage car use, so it has run campaigns to encourage cycling. Then maybe because of the recession, people want to save money anyway, so cycling is a cheaper option to a car or public transport. People are maybe more aware of the need to keep fit too. Finally, in recent years, British cyclists have been very successful at the Olympics and in the Tour de France. These people have maybe inspired interest in the sport.

Cover the text. What do you remember?

  • Say five different kinds of boom that can happen.
  • Say two verbs that can go with a boom.
  • How can you express the idea of a ‘boom’ for negative things like accidents or deaths from cancer?
  • Say two different things that can be booming.
  • Say five things that might cause a housing boom.
  • And three that might cause a boom in cycling.

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Related stories in the news

The film industry in the small Baltic country of Latvia is currently enjoying a bit of a boom. The market share of local films at the box office has increased from less than 8 percent five years ago to 28 percent now, with locally-made films such as The Criminal Excellence Fund, Paradise ’89 and The Pagan King all doing very well.

In Italy, meanwhile, there’s been a boom in the number of people asking for advice and predictions from tarot card readers and fortune tellers. With high unemployment and the economy in a bit of a mess, more and more people are turning to unconventional sources for hope. The number of faith healers and fortune-tellers has risen five times since the global economic crisis began a decade ago, and the sector is now worth an estimated eight billion euros a year, with the vast majority of the country’s 155,000 practitioners demanding cash in hand and not declaring their earnings to the tax authorities.

Finally, scientists from around the world have been visiting Florida to find out why there’s been a dolphin baby boom in the coastal waters there. No-one is quite sure why there’s been an explosion in the number of young dolphins, but finding out the reasons could have serious implications for the global dolphin population.


  • Think about your country. What has there been a boom in over recent years? Why do you think this has happened?
  • When was the last economic boom in your country? What happened?
  • Do you know anywhere that’s enjoying a boom in tourism? Have you been there?
  • What might be good / bad for a place when there’s a sudden boom in tourism?

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