The term bombshell is a forerunner to the sex symbol and originally used to describe popular female sex icons.
Modern slang refers to a bombshell as an extremely sexually attractive woman.
Bombshells are a special kind of sex symbol. Bombshells are popular icons recognized for their curves, sex appeal and larger than life personas. The term carries an implication of a voluptuous female sex icon. Some icons of popular culture who have widely been referred to as a "Bombshell" include Jean Harlow, who starred in the 1933 film Bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Diana Dors, Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Jane Russell, Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardot, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, and, in more recent popular culture, Anna Nicole Smith, Pamela Anderson, Monica Bellucci, Katie Price, and Keeley Hazell.
During World War II, "Bombshell Girl" referred to the "pinup" girls who were painted onto the sides of WWII planes, bombers, and their bombs. Such photos are now readily available on the internet and historical archives. Carefully maintained machinery was referred to with terms of endearment. The military allowed artists to create such work for amusement and recreational viewing in order to help boost morale for the pilots and other military personnel.
The term bombshell is also commonly used as an expression describing a sudden/unexpected event. For example, one may "drop a bombshell" in the form of releasing some controversial statements made by a prominent person. This is the original figurative sense of the term, dating back to 1860.
- Stephanie Smith, Household Words: Bloomers, sucker, bombshell, scab, nigger, cyber (2006) on changing usage of the word.