[verb ih-loo-muh-neyt; adjective, noun ih-loo-muh-nit, -neyt]
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verb (used with object), il·lu·mi·nat·ed, il·lu·mi·nat·ing.
  1. to supply or brighten with light; light up.
  2. to make lucid or clear; throw light on (a subject).
  3. to decorate with lights, as in celebration.
  4. to enlighten, as with knowledge.
  5. to make resplendent or illustrious: A smile illuminated her face.
  6. to decorate (a manuscript, book, etc.) with colors and gold or silver, as was often done in the Middle Ages.
verb (used without object), il·lu·mi·nat·ed, il·lu·mi·nat·ing.
  1. to display lights, as in celebration.
  2. to become illuminated.
  1. Archaic. illuminated.
  2. Obsolete. enlightened.
  1. Archaic. a person who is or affects to be specially enlightened.

Origin of illuminate

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin illūminātus (past participle of illūmināre to light up, brighten). See illumine, -ate1
Related formsil·lu·mi·nat·ing·ly, adverbpre·il·lu·mi·nate, verb (used with object)re·il·lu·mi·nate, verb, re·il·lu·mi·nat·ed, re·il·lu·mi·nat·ing.sem·i-il·lu·mi·nat·ed, adjectiveun·il·lu·mi·nat·ed, adjective

Synonyms for illuminate

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for illuminate


verb (ɪˈluːmɪˌneɪt)
  1. (tr) to throw light in or into; light upto illuminate a room
  2. (tr) to make easily understood; clarify
  3. to adorn, decorate, or be decorated with lights
  4. (tr) to decorate (a letter, page, etc) by the application of colours, gold, or silver
  5. (intr) to become lighted up
adjective (ɪˈluːmɪnɪt, -ˌneɪt)
  1. archaic made clear or bright with light; illuminated
noun (ɪˈluːmɪnɪt, -ˌneɪt)
  1. a person who has or claims to have special enlightenment
Derived Formsilluminative, adjectiveilluminator, noun

Word Origin for illuminate

C16: from Latin illūmināre to light up, from lūmen light
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 illuminate

c.1500, "to light up, shine on," a back-formation from illumination, or else from Latin illuminatus, past participle of illuminare (see illumination). Earlier was enlumyen (late 14c.) "decorate written material with gold, silver, bright colors," from Old French enluminer, from Late Latin inluminare; also illumine (late 14c.). Related: Illuminated; illuminating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper