in·​can·​des·​cent | \ ˌin-kən-ˈde-sᵊnt How to pronounce incandescent (audio) also -(ˌ)kan- \

Definition of incandescent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat
b : strikingly bright, radiant, or clear
c : marked by brilliance especially of expression incandescent wit
d : characterized by glowing zeal : ardent incandescent affection
2a : of, relating to, or being light produced by incandescence
b : producing light by incandescence



Definition of incandescent (Entry 2 of 2)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from incandescent


incandescently adverb

Did You Know?


Incandescent came into the English language toward the end of the 18th century, at a time when scientific experiments involving heat and light were being conducted on an increasingly frequent basis. An object that glowed at a high temperature (such as a piece of coal) was "incandescent." By the mid-1800s, the incandescent lamp - a.k.a. the "lightbulb" - had been invented; it contains a filament which gives off light when heated by an electric current. "Incandescent" is the modern offspring of a much older parent, the Latin verb candēre, meaning "to glow." Centuries earlier, the word for another source of light, "candle," was also derived from "candēre."

Examples of incandescent in a Sentence

Adjective sitting in darkness, except for the incandescent coals of our campfire a speaker incandescent with righteous anger over the treatment of the refugees
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Above that are incandescent park and turn lamps, also stripped from the GT350, and two large intakes are integrated into the grille that cool the engine and transmission oil. Connor Hoffman, Car and Driver, "Ford Mustang Mach 1 Is Back for 2021 with 480 HP, Aggressive Aero," 16 June 2020 Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) rather than incandescent lightbulbs that use more energy and emit heat. Hang out in the basement or the lowest level of the house, which stays cooler as hot air rises to upper levels. oregonlive, "10 easy ways to stay cool at home this summer," 5 June 2020 Thomas Edison famously tested thousands of models before arriving at an efficient design for the incandescent light bulb, for example. Anne Quito, Quartz at Work, "We’re about to re-enter an office full of half-baked design prototypes," 19 May 2020 Both cost more than incandescent lights but last much longer. Bob Egelko,, "Ruling allows California to start enforcing efficiency standards for light bulbs," 31 Dec. 2019 Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Jeff Suess,, "Today in History, December 31, 1972: Baseball great Roberto Clemente killed in plane crash bringing relief supplies to Nicaragua," 31 Dec. 2019 In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light by illuminating some 40 bulbs at his laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J., "This day in history," 31 Dec. 2019 The white race did not go into a laboratory and invent incandescent light. John J. Miller, National Review, "Zora Neale Hurston’s Individualism," 5 Dec. 2019 As the story goes, in the 1870’s, Thomas Edison tested more than 3,000 different materials to find the right filament for the first affordable incandescent light bulb. Sophia Chen, Wired, "This Lab ‘Cooks’ With AI to Make New Materials," 20 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the difference is the gas—incandescents commonly use argon, while halogens use halogen (duh!). Stefanie Waldek, House Beautiful, "The 6 Main Types of Light Bulbs and How to Use Them in Your Home," 1 Apr. 2020 But the panels can also charge (less efficiently) from indirect sunlight or even indoor light like incandescent or LED bulbs. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Does Microsoft Want to Put Solar Panels on the Surface Pro?," 17 Jan. 2020 When Yves Moussallam trekked around Vanuatu’s Ambrym volcano in the winter of 2018, the ground was blanketed in green, and five incandescent lakes of molten rock burbled in the volcano’s caldera. National Geographic, "These lava lakes drained catastrophically—and scientists caught it in action," 27 Jan. 2020 The less efficient incandescent bulbs used until a decade or so ago are long gone. John King,, "San Francisco’s skyline has a holiday glow. It’s a global thing," 26 Dec. 2019 This may be the most stunning energy shift for Hawaii since 1881, when King Kalakaua traveled to New York to meet Thomas Edison at his home to see his remarkable incandescent lightbulb. John Fialka, Scientific American, "Hawaii Is a Test Bed to See if Renewables Can Meet Peak Energy Demands," 29 Jan. 2020 To see how much better an LED is than a plain old incandescent, here are two pictures. Rhett Allain, Wired, "Do LEDs Cause Orange Presidents?," 9 Jan. 2020 Neither incandescent nor halogen bulbs met the requirements set to take effect Jan. 1., "The Trump administration gave old-fashioned, incandescent lightbulbs a holiday gift Friday: a new lease on life.," 21 Dec. 2019 According to Energy Star, a program within the Environmental Protection Agency, LED light bulbs are becoming a competitive option versus traditional incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. James Burky, The Denver Post, "Colorado children, activists to stage rallies across state as part of youth-led Global Climate Strike," 19 Sep. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of incandescent


1794, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1900, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for incandescent


probably from French, from Latin incandescent-, incandescens, present participle of incandescere to become hot, from in- + candescere to become hot, from candēre to glow — more at candid

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incandescent

Time Traveler for incandescent

Time Traveler

The first known use of incandescent was in 1794

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about incandescent

Statistics for incandescent

Last Updated

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Incandescent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for incandescent


How to pronounce incandescent (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incandescent

: white or glowing because of great heat
: producing bright light when heated
: very impressive, successful, or intelligent


in·​can·​des·​cent | \ ˌin-kən-ˈde-sᵊnt How to pronounce incandescent (audio) \

Kids Definition of incandescent

: white or glowing with great heat

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on incandescent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for incandescent

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with incandescent

Spanish Central: Translation of incandescent

Nglish: Translation of incandescent for Spanish Speakers

Comments on incandescent

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!