verb (used without object)

to reflect a sparkling light or a faint intermittent glow; shine lustrously.


a glistening; sparkle.

Origin of glisten

before 1000; Middle English glis(t)nen (v.), Old English glisnian, derivative of glisian to glitter; see -en1
Related formsglis·ten·ing·ly, adverbun·glis·ten·ing, adjective

Synonyms for glisten

1. glimmer, gleam, glitter. Glisten, shimmer, sparkle refer to different ways in which light is reflected from surfaces. Glisten refers to a lustrous light, as from something sleek or wet, or it may refer to myriads of tiny gleams reflected from small surfaces: Wet fur glistens. Snow glistens in the sunlight. Shimmer refers to the changing play of light on a (generally moving) surface, as of water or silk: Moonbeams shimmer on water. Silk shimmers in a high light. To sparkle is to give off sparks or small ignited particles, or to send forth small but brilliant gleams, sometimes by reflection: A diamond sparkles with numerous points of light. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for glisten

Contemporary Examples of glisten

Historical Examples of glisten

  • How fine the breast-plates and helmets of those Cuirassiers glisten in the sun!

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

  • The dew in the meadows and the pearls on the wings of butterflies began to glisten.

    The Great Hunger

    Johan Bojer

  • And see the glisten of that glacier in the haze, like a star in the veil of a bride!

  • The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam.

    Heart of Darkness

    Joseph Conrad

  • In asking, he removed his hat, glanced at its glisten, put it on again.

    The Paliser case

    Edgar Saltus

British Dictionary definitions for glisten


verb (intr)

(of a wet or glossy surface) to gleam by reflecting lightwet leaves glisten in the sunlight
(of light) to reflect with brightnessthe sunlight glistens on wet leaves


rare a gleam or gloss
Derived Formsglisteningly, adverb

Word Origin for glisten

Old English glisnian; related to glisian to glitter, Middle High German glistern
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 glisten

Old English glisnian "to glisten, gleam," from Proto-Germanic *glis- (cf. Old Frisian glisa "to shine," Middle High German glistern "to sparkle," Old Danish glisse "to shine"), from PIE *ghleis-, from root *ghel- "to shine, glitter, glow, be warm" (see glass). Related: Glistened; glistening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper