Word of the Day : June 2, 2011


adjective LAM-bunt


1 : playing lightly on or over a surface : flickering

2 : softly bright or radiant

3 : marked by lightness or brilliance especially of expression


The forest floor was dappled with lambent flecks of golden sunlight filtering down through the leafy branches.

"In the lambent softness of all that moonlight, in that quicksilver, fragrant, lukewarm stillness, everything still seems so right in my world: the boundaries between good and evil clearly demarcated." -- From Glen Retief's 2011 book The Jack Bank: A Memoir of a South African Childhood

Did You Know?

Fire is frequently associated with lapping or licking imagery: flames are often described as "tongues" that "lick." "Lambent," which first appeared in English in the 17th century, is a part of this tradition, coming from "lambens," the present participle of the Latin verb "lambere," meaning "to lick." In its earliest uses, "lambent" meant "playing lightly over a surface," "gliding over," or "flickering." These uses were usually applied to flames or light, and by way of that association, the term eventually came to describe things with a radiant or brilliant glow, as Alexander Pope used it in his 1717 poem "Eloisa to Abelard": "Those smiling eyes, attemp'ring ev'ry ray, Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day."

Test Your Memory

What word completes this sentence from a recent Word of the Day piece: "The snail leaves a ___________ trail as it slides along the leaves and branches"? The answer is ...


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