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[en-lahyt-n-muh nt] /ɛnˈlaɪt n mənt/
the act of enlightening.
the state of being enlightened:
to live in spiritual enlightenment.
(usually initial capital letter) Buddhism, Hinduism. prajna.
the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement of the 18th century, characterized by belief in the power of human reason and by innovations in political, religious, and educational doctrine.
Origin of enlightenment
First recorded in 1660-70; enlighten + -ment
Related forms
preenlightenment, noun
reenlightenment, noun


[pruhj-nyah, -nuh] /ˈprʌdʒ nyɑ, -nə/
noun, Buddhism, Hinduism.
pure and unqualified knowledge.
Also called Enlightenment.
From the Sanskrit word prajñā Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for enlightenment


the act or means of enlightening or the state of being enlightened
(Buddhism) the awakening to ultimate truth by which man is freed from the endless cycle of personal reincarnations to which all men are otherwise subject
(Hinduism) a state of transcendent divine experience represented by Vishnu: regarded as a goal of all religion


the Enlightenment, an 18th-century philosophical movement stressing the importance of reason and the critical reappraisal of existing ideas and social institutions


/ˈprʊdʒnə; -njɑː/
wisdom or understanding considered as the goal of Buddhist contemplation
Word Origin
from Sanskrit prajñā, from prajānāti he knows
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for enlightenment

1660s, "action of enlightening," from enlighten + -ment. Used only in figurative sense, of spiritual enlightenment, etc. Attested from 1865 as a translation of German Aufklärung, a name for the spirit and system of Continental philosophers in the 18c.

The philosophy of the Enlightenment insisted on man's essential autonomy: man is responsible to himself, to his own rational interests, to his self-development, and, by an inescapable extension, to the welfare of his fellow man. For the philosophes, man was not a sinner, at least not by nature; human nature -- and this argument was subversive, in fact revolutionary, in their day -- is by origin good, or at least neutral. Despite the undeniable power of man's antisocial passions, therefore, the individual may hope for improvement through his own efforts -- through education, participation in politics, activity in behalf of reform, but not through prayer. [Peter Gay, "The Enlightenment"]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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enlightenment in Culture

Enlightenment definition

An intellectual movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries marked by a celebration of the powers of human reason, a keen interest in science, the promotion of religious toleration, and a desire to construct governments free of tyranny. Some of the major figures of the Enlightenment were David Hume, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, the Baron de Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Voltaire.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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