il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt \
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 \

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 \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 3 of 3)


: one having or claiming unusual enlightenment

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Other Words from illuminate


illuminator \ i-​ˈlü-​mə-​ˌnā-​tər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for illuminate

Synonyms: Verb

bathe, beacon, emblaze, illume, illumine, irradiate, light, lighten

Antonyms: Verb

blacken, darken, obfuscate

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Examples of illuminate in a Sentence


the part of the moon illuminated by the sun A university study has illuminated the problem.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Three large areas behind the counter offer space to hold food and supplies thanks to bungee cord netting, and the entire kitchen is illuminated by two lights. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Teardrop trailer features bunkbeds to sleep a family of 4," 23 Oct. 2018 The design paid homage to the iconic Allianz Arena, home to German Bundesliga soccer powerhouse Bayern Munich, and features a canopy and out-facing facade that can be illuminated with LED lights reflected off translucent material. Patrick Brennan,, "FC Cincinnati reveals training complex plans, stadium details coming Friday," 26 June 2018 Prep Your Skin Even the fanciest foundation with major moisturizing and illuminating properties in the world won’t look good on dry skin. Maureen Choi, Glamour, "The Best Glowy Skin Tips From Meghan Markle’s Makeup Artist," 21 May 2018 Finding the lawsuit could lead to illuminating details about a fascinating case of sanctions, alleged corruption and mines producing a metal used in Tesla Inc. batteries. Franz Wild,, "The Mystery of A vs B Uncovers a London Fight Club for the Rich," 14 May 2018 During the show, Lighting Designer Jack Carroll and Assistant Lighting Designer Ruel Davis ensure the work on stage is illuminated effectively, along with lighting crew member Anaia Oquendo. Courant Community, "Community News For The Valley Edition," 24 Apr. 2018 Here, Slobodian differs in illuminating ways from recent treatments of neoliberal ideas and action. Patrick Iber, The New Republic, "How neoliberalism shapes the global economy and limits the power of democracies," 23 Apr. 2018 My abiding memories of this concept were the big dihedral doors and the way the wheel trims were illuminated from within. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "A flaming superhero car and dieting trucks at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show," 20 Jan. 2018 This epistolary approach evokes a measure of intimacy and illuminates the undeniable complexities of the Israeli history, across the millennia. Barbara Mahany,, "Jimmy Carter's latest book, 'Faith,' leads this week's roundup of spiritual books," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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, "The Uses and Misuses of Historical Analogy for North Korea," 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,, "Filmmaker-monk goes after sex trade in documentary 'Stopping Traffic'," 28 Sep. 2017

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.

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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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Last Updated

21 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illuminate

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

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More Definitions for illuminate



English Language Learners Definition of illuminate

: to supply (something) with light : to shine light on (something)

: to make (something) clear and easier to understand


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt \
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.

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Comments on illuminate

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


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