[en-lahyt-n-muh nt]


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 formspre·en·light·en·ment, nounre·en·light·en·ment, noun


[pruhj-nyah, -nuh]

noun Buddhism, Hinduism.

pure and unqualified knowledge.

Origin of prajna

From the Sanskrit word prajñā
Also called Enlightenment.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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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



wisdom or understanding considered as the goal of Buddhist contemplation

Word Origin for prajna

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

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

Culture definitions for enlightenment


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.