luciferin

noun
lu·​cif·​er·​in | \ lü-ˈsi-f(ə-)rən How to pronounce luciferin (audio) \

Definition of luciferin

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

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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

Some species of dinoflagellates light up using a similar to chemical reaction to that of fireflies; both use a naturally occurring molecule called luciferin, named for Lucifer, the light-bearer. Liz Langley, National Geographic, "How bioluminescence works in nature," 2 May 2019 Curiously, there are far fewer luciferins than luciferases. Quanta Magazine, "In the Deep, Clues to How Life Makes Light," 1 Dec. 2016 While species tend to have unique luciferases, many share the same luciferin. Quanta Magazine, "In the Deep, Clues to How Life Makes Light," 1 Dec. 2016 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

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.

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First Known Use of luciferin

1888, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for luciferin

International Scientific Vocabulary, from Latin lucifer light-bearing

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Statistics for luciferin

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for luciferin

The first known use of luciferin was in 1888

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More Definitions for luciferin

luciferin

noun
lu·​cif·​er·​in | \ -(ə-)rən How to pronounce luciferin (audio) \

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

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