bio·​lu·​mi·​nes·​cence | \ ˌbī-ō-ˌlü-mə-ˈne-sᵊn(t)s \

Definition of bioluminescence

: the emission of light from living organisms (such as fireflies, dinoflagellates, and bacteria) as the result of internal, typically oxidative chemical reactions also : the light so produced

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Other Words from bioluminescence

bioluminescent \ ˌbī-​ō-​ˌlü-​mə-​ˈne-​sᵊnt \ adjective

Examples of bioluminescence in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Book a trip to see the island’s lights—bioluminescence, and expansive constellations—all around. Ella Riley-adams, Vogue, "Why India’s Andaman Islands Could Be the New Maldives," 4 Jan. 2019 Yet despite this diversity, the bioluminescence of the sea is almost always emitted in one shade: blue. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Why Bioluminescence Evolved to Be Red Light, and Blue," 26 June 2018 The infamous anglerfish appears to use bioluminescence for both. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Why Bioluminescence Evolved to Be Red Light, and Blue," 26 June 2018 Scientists will be at the beach to explain the bioluminescence from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday (May 9). Gary Robbins,, "Go to Scripps Pier tonight to hear scientists explain why the ocean is glowing," 9 May 2018 The chemical signals come from bioluminescence, meaning that the robot is designed to sense the light from the bacteria. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "How E. Coli Could Power a Predatory Robot," 17 July 2015 Biofluorescence is not to be confused with bioluminescence, in which animals produce their own light via a chemical reaction. National Geographic, "See Amazing Ocean Creatures That ‘Glow’," 11 June 2018 The United States and the Soviet Union both investigated the phenomenon known as bioluminescence to gauge if it could be used to detect submarines underwater. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. and Soviet Union Once Investigated Bioluminescence as a Way to Track Submarines," 23 Jan. 2018 Once the target is identified, the bacteria metabolize it in a process that generates light through bioluminescence. Karen Kaplan,, "This futuristic pill senses signs of disease inside the body, then sends a wireless alert to a phone," 25 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bioluminescence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bioluminescence

1916, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bioluminescence

International Scientific Vocabulary

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Last Updated

19 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for bioluminescence

The first known use of bioluminescence was in 1916

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bio·​lu·​mi·​nes·​cence | \ ˌbī-ō-ˌlü-mə-ˈnes-ᵊn(t)s \

Medical Definition of bioluminescence

: the emission of light from living organisms also : the light so produced

Other Words from bioluminescence

bioluminescent \ -​ᵊnt \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on bioluminescence

Nglish: Translation of bioluminescence for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about bioluminescence

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