When the word explode was borrowed into English in the 1530s, it meant something more along the lines of "bitterly reject". In the context of theatre, exploding used to refer to audiences making loud noises to boo bad actors off the stage. However, around 1650, the definition shifted to be "loud and sudden noise". By 1790, it took on a sense of something going off with a bang, and became associated with destruction in the late nineteenth century. In Latin, the word was explodere, and that's composed of the prefix ex-, meaning "out" (from Proto-Indo-European eghs, also "out") and the root plaudere, meaning "clap". This, possibly coming from Proto-Indo-European plek ("fold"), is also the etymon of the words plausive, plaudit, and applause, which is really cool.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.