from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • transitive verb To provide or brighten with light.
  • transitive verb To decorate or hang with lights.
  • transitive verb To make understandable; clarify.
  • transitive verb To enlighten intellectually or spiritually; enable to understand.
  • transitive verb To adorn (a page of a book, for example) with ornamental designs, images, or lettering in brilliant colors or precious metals.
  • transitive verb To expose to or reveal by radiation.
  • noun One who has or professes to have an unusual degree of enlightenment.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Enlightened; illuminated.
  • Decorated with or as with colored pictures.
  • noun One who makes pretension to extraordinary light and knowledge. See illuminati.
  • 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To make light; to throw light on; to supply with light, literally or figuratively; to brighten.
  • transitive verb To light up; to decorate with artificial lights, as a building or city, in token of rejoicing or respect.
  • transitive verb 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 verb To make plain or clear; to dispel the obscurity to by knowledge or reason; to explain; to elucidate.
  • intransitive verb To light up in token or rejoicing.
  • adjective Enlightened.
  • noun One who is enlightened; esp., a pretender to extraordinary light and knowledge.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[Middle English illuminaten, from Latin illūmināre, illūmināt- : in-, in; see in– + lūmināre, to light up (from lūmen, lūmin-, light; see leuk- in Indo-European roots).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word illuminate.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

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

    February 1, 2009