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noun Medicine/Medical.
  1. the descent of the uterus into the pelvic cavity, occurring toward the end of pregnancy, changing the contour of the abdomen and facilitating breathing by lessening pressure under the diaphragm.

Origin of lightening

First recorded in 1520–30; lighten2 + -ing1
Can be confusedlightening lightning


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

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British Dictionary definitions for lightening


  1. obstetrics the sensation, experienced by many women late in pregnancy when the head of the fetus enters the pelvis, of a reduction in pressure on the diaphragm, making it easier to breathe


  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 lightening


"the shedding of light," mid-14c., verbal noun from lighten (v.2). Meaning "alleviation of weight" (literal and figurative) is from 1520s, from lighten (v.1).



"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

lightening in Medicine


  1. The sensation of decreased abdominal distention during the latter weeks of pregnancy following the descent of the fetal head into the pelvic inlet.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.