il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \
illuminated; illuminating

Definition of illuminate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a(1) : to supply or brighten with light
(2) : to make luminous or shining
b : to enlighten spiritually or intellectually
c : to subject to radiation
d archaic : to set alight
2a : to make clear : elucidate
b : to bring to the fore : highlight a crisis can illuminate how interdependent we all are
3 : to make illustrious or resplendent
4 : to decorate (something, such as a manuscript) with gold or silver or brilliant colors or with often elaborate designs or miniature pictures


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 2 of 3)

1 archaic : brightened with light
2 archaic : intellectually or spiritually enlightened


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 3 of 3)

: one having or claiming unusual enlightenment

Other Words from illuminate


illuminator \ i-​ˈlü-​mə-​ˌnā-​tər How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for illuminate

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of illuminate in a Sentence

Verb the part of the moon illuminated by the sun A university study has illuminated the problem.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Here are this year's award-winning discoveries, which illuminate the unpredictable path of science and the benefits of investing in research that might not immediately pay off. Katie Hunt, CNN, 14 Sep. 2022 For example, an overhead fixture brightens up the overall space, while sconces illuminate specific tasks. Julianne Hilmes Bartlett, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 Sep. 2022 But recent theoretical and observational advances have helped illuminate these shadowy objects, with profound implications for more than just black holes themselves. Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American, 17 Aug. 2022 What this should illuminate is that while some approaches on average work better than others, individual circumstances should be taken into account when developing your own social media monitoring strategy. Mark Travers, Forbes, 17 Aug. 2022 The mascot’s diaphanous wings illuminate with the car’s lights. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, 4 Aug. 2022 And this is what his collective work does so well: illuminate the reality of our shared experience, while encouraging us to embrace the curious mystery that is human life. Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, Washington Post, 6 July 2022 That enduring philosophical reflection was spoken in 1971 by the great American writer James Baldwin, whose work did of course illuminate much suffering, and offer consolation for it. Charles Isherwood, WSJ, 10 June 2022 There were funny moments, too, that helped illuminate his draw with his employees and the public. New York Times, 20 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Flashlights, lamps, and cellphones illuminate bodies but obscure faces. Danielle Momoh,, 8 Aug. 2022 Cole’s remarkable and unforgettable novel and its flâneur protagonist, Julius, a Nigerian immigrant, illuminate aspects of New York rarely before depicted in fiction. New York Times, 30 June 2022 Tender interactions like these illuminate Chloe’s emotional state, giving viewers more to latch on to than her longing stares and anxious lip biting. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Jan. 2022 Animated characters sing along as trees and snowflakes illuminate to the beat. Patrick Connolly,, 17 Dec. 2021 The details of the dispute illuminate major hurdles that countries around the globe will face in eliminating coal from their energy mix—and the need to develop local solutions to set an ambitious and actionable path toward decarbonization. Baker Institute, Forbes, 29 Oct. 2021 If sentiments seem easily derived in a few stories, in the best ones, mysteries like Theodosia's illuminate larger truths about love, loyalty and the persistence of memory. Star Tribune, 8 Jan. 2021 The problem is that, while the careful study of history can provide policymakers with powerful insights, incongruous comparisons can just as easily obscure as illuminate contemporary challenges. Richard Fontaine, The Atlantic, 3 Oct. 2017 Throughout the film, interviews reveal the pervasive abuses committed against infants, children and teens as well as illuminate groups and people who are working to stop it. Kimber Myers,, 28 Sep. 2017 See More

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

First Known Use of illuminate


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for illuminate


Middle English, from Latin illuminatus, past participle of illuminare, from in- + luminare to light up, from lumin-, lumen light — more at luminary

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Time Traveler for illuminate

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The first known use of illuminate was in the 15th century

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Statistics for illuminate

Last Updated

28 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Illuminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for illuminate


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \
illuminated; illuminating

Kids Definition of illuminate

1 : to supply with light : light up He clutched Rose as a dazzling blast illuminated the lobby…— Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck
2 : to make clear : explain His speech illuminated the subject.

More from Merriam-Webster on illuminate

Nglish: Translation of illuminate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of illuminate for Arabic Speakers


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