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verb (used without object)
  1. to become lighter or less dark; brighten: The sky lightened after the storm.
  2. to brighten or light up, as the eyes or features: Her face lightened when she heard the good news.
  3. to flash as or like lightning (often used impersonally with it as subject): It thundered and lightened for hours.
  4. Archaic. to shine, gleam, or be bright: steel blades lightening in the sun.
verb (used with object)
  1. to give light to; illuminate: A full moon lightened the road.
  2. to brighten (the eyes, features, etc.): A large smile lightened his face.
  3. to make lighter or less dark: Add white to lighten the paint.
  4. Obsolete. enlighten.
  5. Obsolete. to flash or emit like lightning (usually followed by out, forth, or down): eyes that lightened forth implacable hatred.

Origin of lighten1

1300–50; Middle English lightnen; see light1, -en1
Related formslight·en·er, noun


verb (used with object)
  1. to make lighter in weight: to lighten the load on a truck.
  2. to lessen the load of or upon: to lighten a cargo ship.
  3. to make less burdensome or oppressive; alleviate; mitigate: to lighten taxes; to lighten someone's cares.
  4. to cheer or gladden: Such news lightens my heart.
verb (used without object)
  1. to become less severe, stringent, or harsh; ease up: Border inspections have lightened recently.
  2. to become less heavy, cumbersome, burdensome, oppressive, etc.: His worries seem to have lightened somewhat.
  3. to become less gloomy; perk up: People's spirits usually lighten when spring arrives.

Origin of lighten2

1350–1400; Middle English lightnen; see light2, -en1


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3. ease, lessen, reduce.


3. aggravate.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lightened

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The rare loveliness of the scene touched and lightened my heart.

    Green Mansions

    W. H. Hudson

  • By this time the squall had passed, and it lightened up a little.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • It rained as if the flood-gates of heaven were opened, and it lightened awfully.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • They were soon quite intimate, and lightened the way with a variety of conversation.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • He has lightened the burden of thought because he has shown us that the chains which we wear are of our own forging.



British Dictionary definitions for lightened


  1. to become or make light
  2. (intr) to shine; glow
  3. (intr) (of lightning) to flash
  4. (tr) an archaic word for enlighten


  1. to make or become less heavy
  2. to make or become less burdensome or oppressive; mitigate
  3. to make or become more cheerful or lively
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

Word Origin and History for lightened



"to make less heavy," figuratively "to make cheerful," mid-14c., from light (adj.1) + -en (1). Related: Lightened; lightening.



"shed light upon, illuminate, brighten," early 14c., from light (n.) -en (1). Meaning "to grow brighter" is late 14c. Of faces, expressions, etc., from 1795. Related: Lightened; lightening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper