in·​can·​des·​cent | \ˌin-kən-ˈde-sᵊnt 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)

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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


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

With skin as incandescent as the Duchess's, though, all focus was bound to fall on her ever-smiling face—but a bit of blush never hurt anyone. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Meghan Markle Plays Up Her Pregnancy Glow With This Easy Makeup Trick," 30 Oct. 2018 There was the rivalry between stars Chevy Chase and Murray, the incandescent rage of sitcom staple Ted Knight fueled by the cast’s merry pranksters of improv and cocaine. Chicago Tribune Staff,, "From Joyce Carol Oates to 'Caddyshack' and the Cubs, Printers Row Lit Fest hit a thoughtful groove," 9 June 2018 The team is made in his image: scrappy, accountable, occasionally incandescent. Marcus Hayes,, "Flyers' Giroux, Voracek, and Simmonds disappeared in playoffs, but they'll return | Marcus Hayes," 23 Apr. 2018 Smith’s face, as usual, was bisected by an incandescent smile. Joe Drape, New York Times, "At 52, Mike Smith Has the Ride of His Life," 9 June 2018 And much is lost through the use of inefficient devices, like incandescent light bulbs that heat up a filament to produce light. David Roberts, Vox, "This technology could fundamentally change our relationship to electricity," 5 June 2018 The finale, with its breathtakingly fast tempo, was incandescent. Zachary Lewis,, "Cleveland Orchestra keeps the flame burning as 'The Prometheus Project' continues (review)," 14 May 2018 On May 3rd, incandescent lava began oozing from Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano, forming glowing streams of molten rock. Maya Wei-haas, Smithsonian, "A Brief Glossary of Volcano Vocab," 25 May 2018 That’s like the ocean powered two 100 watt incandescent lightbulbs for every square meter of the Gulf of Mexico… for a month. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Hurricane Harvey was fueled by record heat in the Gulf of Mexico," 10 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Before electricity and incandescents, towns would light their streets using gasoline or natural gas. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Meet the twist-and-turning streetlamp of the future," 14 Sep. 2018 Their light is similar to that of traditional incandescents, but Halogens use only about 28% less energy, so your electric bill won't drop dramatically. The Good Housekeeping Institute, Good Housekeeping, "A Quick Guide to Energy-Efficient Bulbs," 30 Dec. 2013 Debbie, incandescent with rage, confronted Ruth in the warehouse where GLOW was rehearsing, prompting the show’s wily director, Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), to imagine how sparks might fly between the two women in the ring. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Love Story of Debbie and Ruth," 10 July 2018 Here Gilpin shone at his most incandescent, piling sheer fantasy built on pseudo-science and hope ever higher. Johnforristerross, Longreads, "Taming the Great American Desert," 2 July 2018 In the early 2000s, the replacement of old-school incandescent lights with LEDs largely rendered the Clark Griswold-style of massive though static displays obsolete. Bill Bannks, ajc, "Tony Paradowski, 60: Decatur’s maestro of Christmas-light magic," 22 June 2018 Volcanoes have a lot of ways to kill people—caustic ash, superheated hurricane-like pyroclastic flows, incandescent mudslides called lahars...and, of course, lava. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "The Implacable Power of Volcanic Lava," 10 May 2018 On one side of the room, a floor-to-ceiling window overlooks the incandescent buzz of the Apparatus Room below. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "Chef’s Table in downtown Detroit is our 2018 Restaurant of the Year," 16 Feb. 2018 And to be Marilyn Monroe was to be a star, incandescent and otherworldly, but also to be Norma Jean Baker, a human being, ordinary and dull, trapped inside a star. Lili Anolik, Vanities, "Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick: A Brief, White-Hot, and Totally Doomed Romance," 14 Dec. 2017

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.

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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

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Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

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The first known use of incandescent was in 1794

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More Definitions for incandescent



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 \

Kids Definition of incandescent

: white or glowing with great heat

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with incandescent

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Spanish Central: Translation of incandescent

Nglish: Translation of incandescent for Spanish Speakers

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