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 Each luminaria costs between $5,500-$6,000 and made possible with a $50,000 grant from Hudson-Webber. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "As Michigan restaurants reopen, outdoor dining grabs part of the spotlight," 1 Feb. 2021 Place your home luminaria in your driveway and then drive by Porter’s Hill to see H-O-P-E light up the town., "Community News For The South Windsor Edition," 11 Dec. 2020 Each $10 kit contains supplies to make 12 luminaria, including white bags, 10 pounds of sand and 15-hour candles from A.I. Root. Sam Boyer, cleveland, "Voters turn out in the fall -- and so do beautiful birds: Whit & Whimsey," 6 Nov. 2020 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

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 17 May. 2021.

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