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

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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 Using a creative laser etched optical acrylic plate, the base projects with 10 LED uplights which illuminate the inserted plate. Maren Estrada, BGR, "These 10 special Amazon deals can only be unlocked by Prime members," 21 Apr. 2021 Already, some researchers have started publishing work based off similar events connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine that suggest how this class of vaccines could lead to these adverse events, which could illuminate how to treat or prevent them. Katherine Ellen Foley, Quartz, "Do I need to worry if I had the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine?," 13 Apr. 2021 Paxton has refused to release his communications about the event, which could illuminate his real-time reaction to the riot, who booked him as a speaker for the rally and who covered his travel expenses. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, "Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton refuses to release messages about attendance at pro-Trump rally," 25 Mar. 2021 Both groups of employers face risks, which 2021 will illuminate. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, "Employers bringing workers back to the office may be inviting them to an unfamiliar place," 4 Dec. 2020 This means instead of the 72 LEDs that illuminate the current screen, Apple can squeeze in 10,000 and more. David Phelan, Forbes, "iPad Pro 2021: It’s Been Revealed, The Biggest iPad Upgrade Ever," 21 Apr. 2021 Organizers did not have access to confidential data maintained by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that might illuminate why the numbers were down. Los Angeles Times, "Despite appearances, 12% fewer homeless people were on Hollywood streets this year," 13 Apr. 2021 But plenty happened that can still illuminate some of the clubs’ thoughts and intentions since camp started in the middle of February. Jon Meoli,, "Five things we learned from Orioles spring training, including a glut of talent in the outfield | ANALYSIS," 30 Mar. 2021 When the brake pads wear out, the ABS warning light may incorrectly illuminate in addition to the Brake Pad Wear warning light. Detroit Free Press, "Car recalls for April 1-8 include 628,000 Acuras, 60,000 Chevrolets," 8 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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, "Review: 'The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus'," 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, "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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Time Traveler for illuminate

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for illuminate

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Illuminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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 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.

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