from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To provide or brighten with light.
  • transitive v. To decorate or hang with lights.
  • transitive v. To make understandable; clarify: "Cleverly made attacks can . . . serve to illuminate important differences between candidates” ( New Republic).
  • transitive v. To enlighten intellectually or spiritually; enable to understand.
  • transitive v. To endow with fame or splendor; celebrate.
  • transitive v. To adorn (a page of a book, for example) with ornamental designs, miniatures, or lettering in brilliant colors or precious metals.
  • transitive v. To expose to or reveal by radiation.
  • intransitive v. To become lighted; glow.
  • intransitive v. To provide intellectual or spiritual enlightenment and understanding: "Once you decide to titillate instead of illuminate, you're on a slippery slope” ( Bill Moyers).
  • intransitive v. To be exposed to or revealed by radiation.
  • n. One who has or professes to have an unusual degree of enlightenment.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. to shine light on something
  • v. to decorate something with lights
  • v. to clarify or make something understandable
  • v. to decorate the page of a manuscript book with ornamental designs
  • v. To make spectacular
  • v. to glow
  • v. to be exposed to light
  • n. Someone thought to have an unusual degree of enlightenment.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Enlightened.
  • n. One who is enlightened; esp., a pretender to extraordinary light and knowledge.
  • intransitive v. To light up in token or rejoicing.
  • transitive v. To make light; to throw light on; to supply with light, literally or figuratively; to brighten.
  • transitive v. To light up; to decorate with artificial lights, as a building or city, in token of rejoicing or respect.
  • transitive v. To adorn, as a book or page with borders, initial letters, or miniature pictures in colors and gold, as was done in manuscripts of the Middle Ages.
  • transitive v. To make plain or clear; to dispel the obscurity to by knowledge or reason; to explain; to elucidate.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To give light to; light up.
  • To light up profusely; decorate with many lights, as for festivity, triumph, or homage: as, to illuminate one's house and grounds; the city was illuminated in honor of the victory.
  • To enlighten; inform; impart intellectual or moral light to.
  • To throw light upon; make luminous or clear; illustrate or elucidate.
  • To decorate in color by hand; adorn with pictures, ornamental letters, designs, etc., in colors, gold, silver, etc., in flat tints, especially without shading, or with merely conventional shading: as, the illuminated missals or manuscripts of the middle ages.
  • To display a profusion of lights, in order to express joy, triumph, etc.
  • Enlightened; illuminated.
  • Decorated with or as with colored pictures.
  • n. One who makes pretension to extraordinary light and knowledge. See illuminati.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. add embellishments and paintings to (medieval manuscripts)
  • v. make free from confusion or ambiguity; make clear
  • v. make lighter or brighter


Middle English illuminaten, from Latin illūmināre, illūmināt- : in-, in; see in-2 + lūmināre, to light up (from lūmen, lūmin-, light; see leuk- in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English illuminaten, originally from Latin illūminātum, supine of illūminō ("lighten, light up, show off"), from in + lūminō ("light up"), from lūmen ("light"). Cognate with Old English lȳman ("to glow, shine"). More at leam. (Wiktionary)


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  • Spooks has me using this word in a whole new way. Thanks BBC!

    February 1, 2009