lu·​mi·​nar·​ia | \ ˌlü-mə-ˈner-ē-ə How to pronounce luminaria (audio) \
plural luminarias

Definition of luminaria

: a traditional Mexican Christmas lantern originally consisting of a candle set in sand inside a paper bag

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Did You Know?

Luminaria is a fairly recent addition to English; the earliest known use in our language dates from 1949, about the time that the old Mexican Christmas custom was gaining popularity among Anglo-Americans. In some parts of the U.S., particularly New Mexico, these festive lanterns are also called farolitos, which means "little lanterns" in Spanish. We borrowed luminaria from Spanish, but the word has been around with exactly the same spelling since the days of Late Latin. The term ultimately traces to the classical Latin luminare, meaning "window," and to lumen, meaning "light." It is related to other light-bearing words such as luminary, illuminate, and phillumenist (a fancy name for someone who collects matchbooks).

Examples of luminaria in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web A million lights drape saguaros, ocotillos and paloverde trees as luminarias guide visitors along shimmering pathways through the park’s 49 acres. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "Here's where to see the best Christmas lights around Arizona," 22 Nov. 2019 The event includes vendors in the medical, health and wellness fields and a luminaria ceremony. Houston Chronicle, "Fort Bend County calendar of events," 27 Jan. 2020 From 5-8 p.m. Dec. 17, stroll through the charming downtown where the sidewalks are lined by thousands of luminarias. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "Here's where to see the best Christmas lights around Arizona," 22 Nov. 2019 For 26 years, residents have held the event on a December Sunday, decorating their homes and lining the streets with luminarias. Cathy Kozlowicz, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Community embraces Luminary Night to support Germantown Food Pantry," 10 Dec. 2019 Surrounded by 50,000 desert plants, visitors will walk along a path to find elaborate luminaria formations lighting up the night sky to the tune of performances by various local artists. Kimi Robinson, azcentral, "A Southwestern holiday tradition: Check out 8,000 luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden," 23 Nov. 2019 Also on Sunday, Medina High School students set up around 2,500 luminaria, most of which will be placed around the historic district, said Wiederhold, with a few hundred being placed in nearby neighborhoods. Allison Wood, cleveland, "Candlelight Walk kicks off Christmas in Medina," 18 Nov. 2019 Nine circles and 22 stars formed by luminarias — traditional lanterns made from paper bags, sand, and LED lights — adorned the field in honor of the nine people killed in the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting and the 22 El Paso shooting victims. Washington Post, "Leaders say love will triumph over hate after El Paso attack," 15 Aug. 2019 The preambles on Friday include a concert by the Satuit Band at St. Mary’s Parish Hall, 14 Edward Foster Road, at 7:30 p.m., shops staying open until 9 p.m. for special events and sales, and luminaria along the coastline beginning at dusk. L. Kim Tan,, "Summertime, when the livin’ is busy," 28 July 2019

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

1934, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for luminaria

Spanish, decorative light, from Late Latin

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Time Traveler for luminaria

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The first known use of luminaria was in 1934

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Cite this Entry

“Luminaria.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on luminaria

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with luminaria

Spanish Central: Translation of luminaria

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