en·​light·​en | \in-ˈlī-tᵊn, en-\
enlightened; enlightening\ in-​ˈlīt-​niŋ , -​ˈlī-​tᵊn-​iŋ, en-​ \

Definition of enlighten 

transitive verb

1 archaic : illuminate

2a : to furnish knowledge to : instruct enlightened us about the problem

b : to give spiritual insight to

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Examples of enlighten in a Sentence

I don't understand what's going on; can someone please enlighten me? the lecturer at the planetarium enlightened us about the latest astronomical discoveries

Recent Examples on the Web

Oh, anyway, next, Professor Gutfeld, our buddy, enlightens us on claims that liberals are causing the decay of U.S. cities. Fox News, "President Trump puts NATO on notice," 12 July 2018 Is the debate about dividing people or enlightening them? John Kass, chicagotribune.com, "Does black Chicago feel jilted by Rahm's Mayor Zorro act?," 25 Apr. 2018 Her loss is profound, but then so is her legacy of entertaining, enlightening and moving Chicagoans of all ages and walks of life. Chris Jones, chicagotribune.com, "Leading Chicago director Rachel Rockwell is dead at 49," 29 May 2018 But Popovich can also be funny, engaging, enlightening and philosophical. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, "Warriors mourn loss of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin," 19 Apr. 2018 At a moment when art might help the narrator navigate toward emotional realization, Xi’s stiff, dead dogs don’t actually enlighten. Walton Muyumba, latimes.com, "Detachment and dreaming in 'My Year of Rest and Relaxation' by Ottessa Moshfegh," 12 July 2018 A few hours spent reading the collected works of Frederick Douglass would have enlightened West and eradicated his alarming ignorance. Phillip Morris, cleveland.com, "Kanye West has a thing or two to learn about American slavery: Phillip Morris," 9 May 2018 Set in Shanghai, made empathic with a multigenerational family saga, embellished with timeless class conflict, this story entertains and enlightens. Monitor Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, "10 best books of July: the Monitor's picks," 12 July 2018 Material with a purpose enlightens Reed, which has led to a few of his favorite artists being J. Cole and Frank Ocean. Clevis Murray, azcentral, "Motivated Davon Reed looking toward redemption year with Suns," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'enlighten.' 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 enlighten

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

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Statistics for enlighten

Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for enlighten

The first known use of enlighten was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for enlighten



English Language Learners Definition of enlighten

: to give knowledge or understanding to (someone) : to explain something to (someone)


en·​light·​en | \in-ˈlī-tᵊn \
enlightened; enlightening

Kids Definition of enlighten

: to give knowledge or understanding to “Where is she now? Will someone please enlighten me?”— Brian Jacques, Redwall

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Comments on enlighten

What made you want to look up enlighten? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

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