luciferin

noun
lu·cif·er·in | \ lü-ˈsi-f(ə-)rən \

Definition of luciferin 

: any of various organic substances in luminescent organisms (such as fireflies) that upon oxidation produce a virtually heatless light

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Luciferin got its name from the Latin word lucifer (meaning "light-bearing"), which is also a source of the word that is sometimes used as a name of the devil. We won't go into how Lucifer came to be called by that name-suffice it to say he wasn't always associated with darkness-but we will look a bit more closely at the Latin word lucifer. It comes from Latin luc-, meaning "light," plus -fer, meaning "bearing" or "producing." Additional relatives include the nontechnical adjective luciferous, meaning "bringing light or insight," and luciferase, the enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin.

Examples of luciferin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Like many bioluminescent animals their light is created by a reaction between the light-emitting molecule luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. National Geographic, "Living Fireworks, These Animals Produce Light Shows with Their Bodies," 30 June 2018 These animals create light by combining the molecule luciferin with oxygen. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. and Soviet Union Once Investigated Bioluminescence as a Way to Track Submarines," 23 Jan. 2018 The researchers figured out how to get the luciferase and luciferin into plant leaves, which then glow with a dim light. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "MIT Researchers Want to Make Glow-In-the-Dark Plants," 14 Dec. 2017 In fireflies, luciferase binds to another chemical called luciferin, which causes a reaction that emits light. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "MIT Researchers Want to Make Glow-In-the-Dark Plants," 14 Dec. 2017 Every organism has its own version of luciferin and luciferase, with individual properties that could prove useful. Joanna Klein, The Seattle Times, "Hunting mushrooms that glow on your path," 4 May 2017 Three chemicals -- luciferase, luciferin and ATP -- combine to produce the firefly's characteristic glow. Karen Farkas, cleveland.com, "Have fireflies disappeared? And 10 things you may not know about them," 24 July 2017 Every organism has its own version of luciferin and luciferase, with individual properties that could prove useful. Joanna Klein, The Seattle Times, "Hunting mushrooms that glow on your path," 4 May 2017 That means that the enzyme might be able to interact with different luciferins—and produce even more shades of that pretty glow. Erin Blakemore, Smithsonian, "The Secret Behind Bioluminescent Mushrooms’ Magic Glow," 27 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'luciferin.' 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 luciferin

1888, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for luciferin

International Scientific Vocabulary, from Latin lucifer light-bearing

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about luciferin

Listen to Our Podcast about luciferin

Statistics for luciferin

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for luciferin

The first known use of luciferin was in 1888

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for luciferin

luciferin

noun
lu·cif·er·in | \ -(ə-)rən \

Medical Definition of luciferin 

: any of various organic substances in luminescent organisms that furnish practically heatless light in undergoing oxidation promoted by luciferase

More from Merriam-Webster on luciferin

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about luciferin

Comments on luciferin

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

WORD OF THE DAY

alleviating pain or harshness

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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