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Street lantern
Portable lantern

Alternative forms[edit]


Middle English lanterne (13th century), via Old French lanterne from Latin lanterna (lantern), itself a corruption of Ancient Greek λαμπτήρ (lamptḗr, torch) (see lamp, λάμπω (lámpō)) by influence of Latin lucerna (lamp). The spelling lanthorn was current during the 16th to 19th centuries and originates with a folk etymology associating the word with the use of horn as translucent cover. For the verb, compare French lanterner to hang at the lamppost.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈlæn.tən/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈlæn.tɚn/
  • (file)


lantern (plural lanterns)

  1. A case of translucent or transparent material made to protect a flame, or light, used to illuminate its surroundings.
  2. (theater) Especially, a metal casing with lens used to illuminate a stage (e.g. spotlight, floodlight).
  3. (architecture) An open structure of light material set upon a roof, to give light and air to the interior.
    • 1853, Charles Dickens, Bleak House, ch 1:
      On such an afternoon, if ever, the Lord High Chancellor ought to be sitting here—as here he is—with a foggy glory round his head, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains, addressed by a large advocate with great whiskers, a little voice, and an interminable brief, and outwardly directing his contemplation to the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog.
  4. (architecture) A cage or open chamber of rich architecture, open below into the building or tower which it crowns.
  5. (architecture) A smaller and secondary cupola crowning a larger one, for ornament, or to admit light.
    the lantern of the cupola of the Capitol at Washington, or that of the Florence cathedral
  6. (engineering) A lantern pinion or trundle wheel.
  7. (steam engines) A kind of cage inserted in a stuffing box and surrounding a piston rod, to separate the packing into two parts and form a chamber between for the reception of steam, etc.; a lantern brass.
  8. (rail transport) A light formerly used as a signal by a railway guard or conductor at night.
  9. (metalworking) A perforated barrel to form a core upon.
  10. (zoology) Aristotle's lantern


Derived terms[edit]



lantern (third-person singular simple present lanterns, present participle lanterning, simple past and past participle lanterned)

  1. (transitive) To furnish with a lantern.
    to lantern a lighthouse

See also[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of lanterne