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

Weekend Highlight Green Lake Pathway of Lights, one of Seattle’s favorite holiday traditions, brightens the 2.8-mile path around the lake with luminaria and holiday music on Saturday, Dec. 8. Madeline Mckenzie, The Seattle Times, "Holiday sights light up the night at Green Lake, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle and Tacoma zoos," 5 Dec. 2018 Choral ensembles, cookies and cocoa, kids’ activities, holiday lighting, luminaria, 6-8 p.m. Dec. 13, Volunteer Park, 1247 15th Ave. E., Seattle ( Madeline Mckenzie, The Seattle Times, "Community calendar: Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, Winter Solstice Night Market, Jingle Bell Run," 5 Dec. 2018 Olympic Sculpture Park will glow with luminaria and lights on its iconic sculptures at the annual SAM Lights event on Thursday, Dec. 13. Madeline Mckenzie, The Seattle Times, "Holiday sights light up the night at Green Lake, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle and Tacoma zoos," 5 Dec. 2018 Intertwine fresh greenery with white ribbon around a staircase banister to reflect a tree covered in frost, or lights around your fireplace mantle replicating the glow of luminarias. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "A Celebrity Event Planner’s Secrets for the Best Holiday Party Ever," 10 Oct. 2018 Trick-or-treat along a half mile of desert trail lit by luminarias, hear stories by the campfire, and learn about the real creepy crawlies that call the desert home. Alison Stanton, azcentral, "47 Halloween events around Phoenix scare up fun for all ages," 31 Oct. 2017 The walk, scheduled to end Sunday, includes cancer survivors and caregivers and a luminaria ceremony. Daily Pilot Staff,, "Costa Mesa Relay for Life steps up to fight cancer," 23 June 2018 Family-friendly event features Kids Zone, live entertainment, DJ, raffles, silent auction, homemade dessert auction, food stands, luminaria ceremony and more. Rasputin Todd,, "Things to do this week in Cincinnati: June 4-10," 4 June 2018 There's always something going on, such as the Music in the Garden series, art exhibits, plant sales, workshops and special events such as the holiday luminaria display. azcentral, "From climate to fry bread, 125 reasons to love Arizona," 15 May 2015

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

1949, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for luminaria

Spanish, decorative light, from Late Latin

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Time Traveler for luminaria

The first known use of luminaria was in 1949

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More from Merriam-Webster on luminaria

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with luminaria

Spanish Central: Translation of luminaria

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