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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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 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, "Timberwolves played well in stretch — unlike so many times last season," 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, "Nothing Lasts Forever," 4 Dec. 2020 There is not a scintilla of evidence that this is true. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, "Shepard Smith cuts off Trump press conference for 'absolutely untrue' claims about election," 5 Nov. 2020 To offset a scintilla of road-tripping climate guilt, consider one from Nimble, which makes environmentally responsible charging accessories. Sandra Upson, Wired, "A Guide to Safely Holiday Road-Tripping Through a Pandemic," 31 Oct. 2020 In addition, the Prius Prime feels ethereal in its responses, delivering performance without a scintilla of feel or emotion. cleveland, "2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid delivers the Prius’ exceptional fuel efficiency without the oddball styling (review)," 8 Feb. 2020 The guy who spent his entire career in New York and was never involved in a single scandal, nor a scintilla of trouble, and was a role model for baseball? Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, "Baseball Hall of Fame: Derek Jeter is a no-brainer, but will he be unanimous?," 17 Jan. 2020 Like all good propaganda, the story was mostly false, but with a scintilla of truth. Kimberly Dozier, Time, "A U.S. Plane Crashed in Afghanistan. Why So Many Believed a CIA Chief Was On It.," 1 Feb. 2020 Not a scintilla of evidence in the pages of The Education of an Idealist equips the reader to argue otherwise. Brian Stewart, National Review, "The Education of a Cynic," 5 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for scintilla

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The first known use of scintilla was in 1661

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Last Updated

30 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Scintilla.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for scintilla


How to pronounce scintilla (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of scintilla

: a very small amount of something


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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