lu·​mi·​nar·​ia ˌlü-mə-ˈner-ē-ə How to pronounce luminaria (audio)
plural luminaria or luminarias
: a lantern that typically consists of a candle set in sand inside a paper bag and that is traditionally used in Christmas celebrations in the southwestern U.S.
A luminaria, or little lantern, is a light from a votive candle inside a small paper bag weighted down with sand. It's … believed by some to light the way for the Christ child to Earth.Aurelio Sanchez
The 2,000 luminarias, set and lit by hand, line the road up the mesa to Acoma Pueblo’s 370-foot-high Sky City. … It’s a cherished Christmas Eve tradition in New Mexico, one that kicks off four days of celebrations at the pueblo.Kate Nelson
Anyone who has tried to nurse a fragile flame through a howling night will recognize the electric luminaria's practicality.Annie Calovich
broadly : a similar lantern lit for other occasions (such as memorials)
Luminaria can be purchased throughout the event in honor of those who are fighting cancer, those who are in remission from cancer, or someone who has passed away from the disease. Julia Kazar

Did you know?

Luminaria is a fairly recent addition to English; early usage dates from the 1930s, about the time that the Mexican Christmas custom started to gain 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 Make sure to check out the luminarias, glowing Christmas lanterns that make up a favorite local tradition. Anna Borges, Condé Nast Traveler, 9 Nov. 2023 The luminaria will start to be lit around 3:30 p.m., with the town glowing by sunset. Brenda Yenke, cleveland, 10 Nov. 2022 And for many years, the Medina Breakfast Kiwanis has offered a great kit that gives buyers supplies to make 12 luminaria. Sam Boyer, cleveland, 11 Nov. 2022 Each luminaria costs between $5,500-$6,000 and made possible with a $50,000 grant from Hudson-Webber. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, 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., 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, 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, 22 Nov. 2019 The event includes vendors in the medical, health and wellness fields and a luminaria ceremony. Houston Chronicle, 27 Jan. 2020 See More

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

Word History


Spanish, decorative light, from Late Latin

First Known Use

1934, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of luminaria was in 1934

Dictionary Entries Near luminaria

Cite this Entry

“Luminaria.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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