1 of 2


in·​can·​des·​cent ˌin-kən-ˈde-sᵊnt How to pronounce incandescent (audio)
 also  -(ˌ)kan-
: white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat
: strikingly bright, radiant, or clear
: marked by brilliance especially of expression
incandescent wit
: characterized by glowing zeal : ardent
incandescent affection
: of, relating to, or being light produced by incandescence
: producing light by incandescence
incandescently adverb


2 of 2


Did you know?

Incandescent first lit up 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—aka 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
The spiral arms are practically incandescent with orange and red gas in Webb’s imagery. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 1 Feb. 2024 The 20,000 fans packed into Madison Square Garden were incandescent with rah-rah, and few could take their eyes off the court. Katherine Rosman, New York Times, 23 Sep. 2023 She was photographed in 1957 after winning her title in Las Vegas, that glow-in-the-desert city within sight of the even more incandescent nuclear testing grounds. Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 25 Oct. 2023 His incandescent quality that complicates the cruelty. Vulture, 17 Oct. 2023 Workers even changed the building’s interior lights to LEDs, because incandescent light can age the murals. Palak Jayswal, The Salt Lake Tribune, 12 Sep. 2023 The government notes that some incandescent bulbs, such as anti-bug lights and those that go in ovens, are exempt from the rules. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 13 Sep. 2023 Despite all of this, Republicans have treated him with kid gloves, if not gone to the mattresses for the man who is simultaneously their party’s most incandescent celebrity and its greatest liability. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 3 Aug. 2023 In America, the incandescent light is no more (with a few exceptions). Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, 1 Aug. 2023
For the star's eyes, Gonzalez chose mauve and antique rose shades out of the Rosey Nudes Eyeshadow Palette, with Long Wear Cream Shadow Stick in incandescent dabbed onto the inner corners of Washington's eyelids for a pop. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, 7 May 2024 These new warmer versions perfectly mimic the glow of an incandescent bulb, and some are even dimmable. TIME, 27 Mar. 2024 After a crash course in grasshopper husbandry, an initial group of about a dozen zookeepers were given a kit that included between 30 and 50 eggs, a heat-emitting incandescent bulb, and a glass enclosure. Matthew Ponsford, WIRED, 19 Mar. 2024 But the job isn’t entirely done: The sign’s flashing starburst and 8-ball need incandescent lights and a specialist to do the installation. Sal Pizarro, The Mercury News, 2 Mar. 2024 The boot camp introduction continued outside and under the incandescent lights of the courtyard. Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register, 29 Jan. 2024 Each disk produces light equivalent to that of a 100-watt incandescent bulb and can be adjusted to make light that’s warm, daylight or in between. Jeanne Huber, Washington Post, 1 Dec. 2023 That’s because traditional incandescent bulbs provide just 15 lumens per watt, according to light bulb manufacturer Philips. David Goldman, CNN, 1 Aug. 2023 Returning from orbit happens quickly and involves rapidly bleeding off orbital speed (usually in excess of 10,000 miles per hour), creating high gravitational force, while Earth’s atmosphere fuels a burning fireball of incandescent plasma around a spaceship. Rick N. Tumlinson, Scientific American, 15 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'incandescent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


1794, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1900, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of incandescent was in 1794


Dictionary Entries Near incandescent

Cite this Entry

“Incandescent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
in·​can·​des·​cent ˌin-kən-ˈdes-ᵊnt How to pronounce incandescent (audio)
: white or glowing with great heat
incandescently adverb


2 of 2 noun

More from Merriam-Webster on incandescent

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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