Glossary of nuclear weapons terminology.

Sources: “Glossary,” Nuclear Threat Initiative,; “Glossary of Terms,” Nuclear Reduction/Disarmament Initiative,; “How does stealth technology work?” HowStuffWorks, April 1, 2000,; and “NATO/Russia Unclassified,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2007,

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Glossary Term Definition/Description
Nuclear weapon A bomb that releases enormous amounts of explosive energy as a result of either nuclear fission, a reaction that occurs when the nucleus of an atom is split into two or more fragments, or nuclear fusion, which occurs when two or more atomic nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus.
Atomic bomb A type of nuclear weapon that draws its explosive power from the sudden release of large amounts of atomic energy through fission. The United States is the only country to have detonated atomic bombs in wartime, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.
Hydrogen (thermonuclear) bomb About 1,000 times more powerful than an atomic bomb; draws its explosive force from a fusion reaction.
Strategic nuclear weapon or warhead Large, high-yield weapons that can destroy entire cities.
Tactical nuclear weapons Low-yield devices with about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima; designed for battlefield use; can take the form of artillery shells, bombs or short-range missiles.
Deployed Mounted on a missile or ready to be loaded onto a long-range bomber.
Ballistic missiles Rocket-powered delivery vehicles that travel in a ballistic (free fall) trajectory.
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) A ballistic missile that can travel more than 3,400 miles.
Delivery vehicle A land-based or submarine-launched ballistic or cruise missile or long-range bomber that can deliver one or more warheads to a target.
Hypersonic Many times faster than the speed of sound.

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