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[fos-fuh-res-uh ns] /ˌfɒs fəˈrɛs əns/
the property of being luminous at temperatures below incandescence, as from slow oxidation in the case of phosphorus or after exposure to light or other radiation.
a luminous appearance resulting from this.
any luminous radiation emitted from a substance after the removal of the exciting agent.
Origin of phosphorescence
First recorded in 1790-1800; phosphoresc(ent) + -ence
Related forms
semiphosphorescence, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for phosphorescence
Historical Examples
  • As on the previous night, the sea was aglow with phosphorescence.

    Jim Spurling, Fisherman

    Albert Walter Tolman
  • But it was not there alone that the phosphorescence of the sea was visible.

    The Adventures of Don Lavington George Manville Fenn
  • The water was alive with phosphorescence that sparkled like gems around the blades.

    A Romantic Young Lady

    Robert Grant
  • There is no light in these depths: they make it with their own phosphorescence.

    Astronomy for Amateurs Camille Flammarion
  • It could be seen by the phosphorescence its motion created, as it approached the surface.

    Creatures of the Abyss Murray Leinster
  • He could see large patches of phosphorescence under the surface.

    Creatures of the Abyss Murray Leinster
  • But if such sights are to be seen on the surface, what must not be the phosphorescence of the depths!

    Poachers and Poaching John Watson
  • The phosphorescence of the sea is a spectacle at once imposing and magnificent.

    The Ocean World: Louis Figuier
  • From time immemorial, the phosphorescence of the sea has been observed by navigators.

    The Ocean World: Louis Figuier
  • The phosphorescence of the sea may also result from another cause.

    The Ocean World: Louis Figuier
British Dictionary definitions for phosphorescence


  1. a fluorescence that persists after the bombarding radiation producing it has stopped
  2. a fluorescence for which the average lifetime of the excited atoms is greater than 10–8 seconds
the light emitted in phosphorescence
the emission of light during a chemical reaction, such as bioluminescence, in which insufficient heat is evolved to cause fluorescence Compare fluorescence
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 phosphorescence

1796, from verb phosphoresce (1794; see phosphorescent) + -ence.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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phosphorescence in Medicine

phosphorescence phos·pho·res·cence (fŏs'fə-rěs'əns)

  1. Persistent emission of light following exposure to and removal of incident radiation.

  2. Emission of light without burning or by very slow burning without appreciable heat, as from the slow oxidation of phosphorous.

phos'pho·res'cent adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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phosphorescence in Science
  1. The emission of light by a substance as a result of having absorbed energy from a form of electromagnetic radiation, such as visible light or x-rays. Unlike fluorescence, phosphorescence continues for a short while after the source of radiation is removed. Glow-in-the-dark products are phosphorescent. Compare fluorescence.

  2. The light produced in this way.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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