scin·​til·​late ˈsin-tə-ˌlāt How to pronounce scintillate (audio)
scintillated; scintillating

intransitive verb

: to emit sparks : spark
: to emit quick flashes as if throwing off sparks : sparkle
Imagine it's a cool summer night, the stars scintillate brilliantly in the sky overhead and the campfire blazes away.Thomas E. Young
: to dazzle or impress with liveliness or wit
The Jay Tarses sitcom, which scintillates with whacked-out wit, was dropped by NBC in 1988 because it was deemed too quirky.Lawrence Eisenberg
Mrs. Burnett's discussion of the Orestes leads the way to a new interpretation of Euripides' Apolline solution, a solution which has titillated, puzzled and infuriated generations of scholars. The arguments scintillate, but sometimes are pushed too far.Geoffrey Arnott

transitive verb

: to throw off as a spark or as sparkling flashes
scintillate witticisms
scintillator noun

Did you know?

The Sparkling History of Scintillate

The initial spark of the verb scintillate was the Latin noun scintilla, meaning, well, “spark.” The ember of scintilla in turn developed into the verb scintillāre, “to sparkle.” Scintillate retains this meaning in expressing the action of gleaming, glittery things, as when jewelry or the surface of a lake in full sun scintillates. But the word can and often does mean “to sparkle” in a figurative sense—that is, to dazzle or impress with a brilliant performance—making the word apt for both celestial and cinematic scintillating stars.

Example Sentences

we watched contentedly as our campfire scintillated in the darkness the diamond ring scintillated in the sunlight
Recent Examples on the Web The striker has been in scintillating form this season, netting seven goals already to sit joint-top of the Premier League scoring charts alongside Sergio Aguero., 19 Sep. 2019 The performances abounded in scintillating grace, wondrous shadings, even touches of impetuousness — all the qualities that distinguish his Chopin, Liszt and Schumann. New York Times, 4 Mar. 2020 Brenda Rae, making her Met debut as Poppea, was hard to hear in the lower parts of the role, but scintillated in the highest soprano passages. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, 7 Feb. 2020 But his arm, though not scintillating like an Elway, Favre or Mahomes, is stellar. The Si Staff,, 28 Aug. 2019 Instead, the awkwardly staged Engrossment Ceremony was non-scintillating TV. Armond White, National Review, 17 Jan. 2020 However, City were able to overcome their slow start and grew in confidence throughout the game, eventually reaching their free-flowing and scintillating best., 22 Oct. 2019 Madrid have been in less than scintillating form in the last few weeks, having picked up just seven points of a possible 15 - allowing intercity rivals Atletico to comfortably take second place in the process., 17 May 2019 When readying for a pre-holiday occasion, the opportunity to experiment with beauty notes oft associated with the year’s annual sunset—saturated reds, scintillating metallics—is as alluring as a signature scent. Vogue, 25 Oct. 2019 See More

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

Word History


Latin scintillatus, past participle of scintillare to sparkle, from scintilla spark

First Known Use

circa 1623, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of scintillate was circa 1623


Dictionary Entries Near scintillate

Cite this Entry

“Scintillate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


scin·​til·​late ˈsint-ᵊl-ˌāt How to pronounce scintillate (audio)
scintillated; scintillating
: to give off sparks
: to flash or gleam as if throwing off sparks
eyes scintillating with anger

Medical Definition


intransitive verb
scin·​til·​late ˈsint-ᵊl-ˌāt How to pronounce scintillate (audio)
scintillated; scintillating
: to produce scintillation

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