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 illuminator (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 To enlighten people about money is to illuminate what is often the darkest and most anxiety-ridden part of their lives. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, "The Capital Note: Volatility Delivers Victory for Goldman Sachs," 14 Oct. 2020 The self-response rate can be viewed by census tract, but the census has withheld key data that would illuminate the final counts in the hardest-to-count census tracts, like 5035 in Hartford. Mark Pazniokas,, "Census ends effort in Connecticut’s hardest-to-count tracts," 14 Oct. 2020 Meanwhile, the process of converting the lights that illuminate the playing field to LEDs has begun. Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Drive system on Miller Park roof to be replaced as part of planned ballpark maintenance, board members decide," 7 Oct. 2020 Through the integration of technology, the goal is to illuminate our common humanity across age, gender, ethnicity and nationality. Matthew J. Palm,, "Orlando Arts Season Preview 2020-21: Visual Art," 22 Sep. 2020 For Goya, to portray is emphatically to illuminate. Julian Bell, The New York Review of Books, "‘Teeming with Things Unknown’," 22 Sep. 2020 When captains Jayden Scruggs and David Guhl carried his white No. 2 jersey back off the field before the game at Carmel on Aug. 28, the reflection from the sun caught the jersey just right and appeared to illuminate against the shadows. Kyle Neddenriep, The Indianapolis Star, "After shooting death of leader, Cathedral football keeps Mario McCullough close. 'You know he is there.'," 11 Sep. 2020 Trump’s three-foot-putt image recalls an earlier, even more potent narrative, used to illuminate a fundamentally different idea of governance and leadership. Washington Post, "How to sort the good cops from the rotten: Ask them about Trump’s golf-putt metaphor," 1 Sep. 2020 Their aim, superficially stated, is to illuminate how a turn-of-the-century iconoclast managed to anticipate and revolutionize a future that few of his contemporaries saw coming. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "The magnetic ‘Tesla,’ starring a brilliant Ethan Hawke, gives visionary his due," 24 Aug. 2020 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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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

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Illuminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for illuminate


How to pronounce illuminate (audio)

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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