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[en-lahyt-n] /ɛnˈlaɪt n/
verb (used with object)
to give intellectual or spiritual light to; instruct; impart knowledge to:
We hope the results of our research will enlighten our colleagues.
Archaic. to shed light upon.
Origin of enlighten
First recorded in 1350-1400, enlighten is from the Middle English word enli(g)htenen. See en-1, lighten1
Related forms
enlightenedly, adverb
enlightenedness, noun
enlightener, noun
enlighteningly, adverb
nonenlightened, adjective
nonenlightening, adjective
preenlighten, verb (used with object)
preenlightener, noun
reenlighten, verb (used with object)
unenlightened, adjective
unenlightening, adjective
well-enlightened, adjective
1. illumine, edify, teach, inform.
1. mystify, confuse, perplex, puzzle. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for unenlightened
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened:—Behold!

    The Republic Plato
  • The problem of Good has bothered the unenlightened for ages.

    The Status Civilization Robert Sheckley
  • The enemies of France, and those who, all unenlightened, attack the Church.

    A Boswell of Baghdad E. V. Lucas
  • There, he said to himself, sat a stubborn and unenlightened man.

    Gladiator Philip Wylie
  • It can only find place in the dark chambers of an unenlightened mind.

  • But Nelson and the others only looked grave and unenlightened.

    Four Afloat Ralph Henry Barbour
British Dictionary definitions for unenlightened


not well-informed, tolerant, or rational: a most backward, unenlightened nation


verb (transitive)
to give information or understanding to; instruct; edify
to free from ignorance, prejudice, or superstition
to give spiritual or religious revelation to
(poetic) to shed light on
Derived Forms
enlightener, noun
enlightening, adjective
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 unenlightened

1660s, "not lit up," from un- (1) "not" + past participle of enlighten. Meaning "not mentally illuminated" is attested from 1650s.



late 14c., "to remove the dimness or blindness (usually figurative) from one's eyes or heart;" see en- (1) + lighten. Old English had inlihtan. Related: Enlightened; enlightening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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