scin·​til·​la | \ sin-ˈti-lə How to pronounce scintilla (audio) \

Definition of scintilla

: spark, trace not a scintilla of doubt

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Scintilla comes directly from Latin, where it carries the meaning of "spark" - that is, a bright flash such as you might see from a burning ember. In English, however, our use of "scintilla" is restricted to the figurative sense of "spark" - a hint or trace of something that barely suggests its presence. The Latin scintilla is related to the verb "scintillare," which means "to sparkle" and is responsible for our verb "scintillate" ("to sparkle or gleam," literally or figuratively). In an odd twist, "scintilla" underwent a transposition of the "c" and the "t" (a linguistic phenomenon known as metathesis) to create the Vulgar Latin form stincilla, which is believed to be an ancestor of our word stencil.

Examples of scintilla in a Sentence

there is not a scintilla of evidence for your outrageous claims
Recent Examples on the Web For these populist archivists, the project would not be so urgent if there were a scintilla of hope for a future without the ceaseless, inevitable ruination of so many landscapes, buildings, and cultural artifacts. Hallel Yadin, Longreads, 24 Mar. 2022 After which, a judge sentenced him to life without a scintilla of a chance of parole. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 8 Mar. 2022 Yet in all its 725 prosecutions, the Justice Department hasn’t presented a scintilla of evidence supporting the hypothesis. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, 6 Jan. 2022 There is not a single scintilla of credible evidence that Ms. Benefield has ever been poisoned or suffered from any illness of any poison. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, 8 Sep. 2021 Mahmoud Dahoud, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, had worked himself a scintilla of space in the middle of the field and slipped a ball into the path of Erling Haaland. New York Times, 17 Apr. 2021 Of course, that misery changed to a scintilla of optimism when the Wolves won the lottery and were able to take their choice, and went with Edwards. Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune, 23 Dec. 2020 This, make no mistake, is a problem for the Premier League’s elite, who have spent the better part of two decades trawling around Europe for any fresh-faced teenager with even a scintilla of talent and using their financial muscle to draw them in. Rory Smith, New York Times, 4 Dec. 2020 There is not a scintilla of evidence that this is true. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, 5 Nov. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scintilla.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of scintilla

1661, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for scintilla


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The first known use of scintilla was in 1661

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Last Updated

30 Mar 2022

Cite this Entry

“Scintilla.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for scintilla


scin·​til·​la | \ sin-ˈti-lə How to pronounce scintilla (audio) \

Legal Definition of scintilla

: a small trace or barely perceptible amount of something (as evidence supporting a position)


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