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From Middle English illuminaten, borrowed from Latin illūminātum, supine of illūminō (lighten, light up, show off), from in + lūminō (light up), from lūmen (light). Cognate with Old English lȳman (to glow, shine). More at leam.


  • IPA(key): /ɪˈl(j)umɪneɪt/, /ɪˈl(j)uməneɪt/ (verb)
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  • IPA(key): /ɪˈl(j)umɪnət/ (noun, adjective)
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illuminate (third-person singular simple present illuminates, present participle illuminating, simple past and past participle illuminated)

  1. (transitive) To shine light on something.
    • 1886 October – 1887 January, H[enry] Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., published 1887, →OCLC:
      Nero illuminated his gardens with live Christians soaked in tar, and we were now treated to a similar spectacle, probably for the first time since his day, only happily our lamps were not living ones.
    • 2006, Michael Grecco, Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait, Amphoto Books, →ISBN, page 40:
      A light that is one foot away from the subject's face will completely illuminate the face, but leave the rest of the body softer and darker.
  2. (transitive) To decorate something with lights.
  3. (transitive, figurative) To clarify or make something understandable.
  4. (transitive) To decorate the page of a manuscript book with ornamental designs.
  5. (transitive, figurative) To make spectacular.
    • 2012 June 2, Phil McNulty, “England 1-0 Belgium”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Hodgson's approach may not illuminate proceedings in Poland and Ukraine but early evidence suggests they will be tough to break down.
  6. (intransitive) To glow; to light up.
    • 1994, Sylvia Carlson, Verne Carlson, Professional Cameraman's Handbook, →ISBN, page 494:
      Red diode in button illuminates when camera runs at speed set in five-digit speed selector.
    • 2011/2012, "Spectrum", written by Florence Welch and Paul Epworth, performed by Florence and the Machine, released on the album Ceremonials (2011):
      Say my name / and every color illuminates. / We are shining / []
  7. (intransitive) To be exposed to light.
  8. (transitive, military) To direct a radar beam toward.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


illuminate (plural illuminates)

  1. Someone thought to have an unusual degree of enlightenment.


illuminate (comparative more illuminate, superlative most illuminate)

  1. (obsolete) enlightened
    • February 28 1630, Joseph Hall, The Hypocrite
      do ye see an illuminate elder of the anabaptists rapt in divine ecstasies?




  1. past participle of illuminar



illuminate f pl

  1. feminine plural of illuminato



  1. inflection of illuminare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative
    3. feminine plural past participle





  1. vocative masculine singular of illūminātus


  • illuminate”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • illuminate in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette