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 After a day full of 4th of July apps, drinks, treats and more, grab a seat and a blanket and watch fireworks illuminate the sky at any one of these shows near you. Annie O’sullivan, Good Housekeeping, 10 May 2022 The artists are inarguably major figures in Modern art’s history, and these paintings illuminate important aspects of their work; holding them is a prime reason an art museum exists. Los Angeles Times, 6 May 2022 The LEDs are south facing which illuminate the keyboard better from the typist’s point of view. Mark Sparrow, Forbes, 1 May 2022 But those records, current and former government officials say, can be used to create a cattle-tracking tool and illuminate even the murkiest sections of the supply chain. Washington Post, 29 Apr. 2022 The importance of a strong democracy in the U.S is critical: The strongest way to advocate for democracy abroad is to model it at home and illuminate its uprightness. Blaise Malley, The New Republic, 26 Apr. 2022 But as Pacific Arts Movement’s 11th San Diego Asian Film Festival Spring Showcase will illuminate this weekend, Tanaka became an accomplished director as well at a time when a woman behind the camera was unheard of in Japan. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Apr. 2022 With makeup artist Robert Rumsey, discover the brand's latest product, Essential Cleansing, a light and gentle facial cleansing oil that's designed to melt away impurities and deeply cleanse, hydrate, and illuminate the skin. Jennet Jusu, Allure, 12 Apr. 2022 Documents posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say reflections caused by the headlight housings can illuminate some areas with too much light. NBC News, 22 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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.

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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

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Illuminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 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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