scin·​til·​la | \sin-ˈti-lə \

Definition of scintilla 

: spark, trace not a scintilla of doubt

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Did You Know?

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

Both today and in 1944, the government could point to a scintilla of evidence for its policy. Aziz Huq, Vox, "The travel ban decision echoes of some of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history," 26 June 2018 Yet for more than a decade, kitchen workers endured intrusive mass strip searches without a scintilla of privacy,'' attorneys Tonna K. Farrar and Leonard Berman wrote on Cunningham's behalf. Maxine Bernstein,, "Group strip searches of Multnomah County inmates is subject of appeal before federal panel," 8 May 2018 A few minutes after Verratti was sent off, after all, Edinson Cavani scored, offering his team a scintilla of hope. Rory Smith, New York Times, "P.S.G. Tumbles Out of Champions League, Left Again to Face the Bill Without the Prize," 6 Mar. 2018 Mollie, is there a scintilla of doubt that most of members of the mainstream media side with Gary Cohn on not imposing tariffs on aluminum and steel, and think that president will be floundering without him? Fox News, "Some pundits rip Trump Korea move," 11 Mar. 2018 The President did not provide a scintilla of evidence to back up his claim. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "Trump basically called Mexicans rapists again," 6 Apr. 2018 That's the only scintilla of good news in this sporting obituary. Phillip Morris,, "American teenagers are demanding a voice on guns: Phillip Morris," 21 Feb. 2018 Leave a Note Occupying a prime tranche of sea coast in the resort enclave of Nusa Dua, the 123-room St. Regis brings Fifth Avenue smarts to the tropics without losing a scintilla of the island’s languorous magic. Condé Nast Traveler, "The St. Regis Bali Resort," 20 Oct. 2017 There is not a scintilla of doubt over who controls Facebook. The Economist, "Social classesFacebook and the meaning of share ownership," 30 Sep. 2017

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.

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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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English Language Learners Definition of scintilla

: a very small amount of something


scin·​til·​la | \sin-ˈti-lə \

Legal Definition of scintilla 

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

More from Merriam-Webster on scintilla

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with scintilla

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for scintilla

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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