See more synonyms for lighten on
verb (used without object)
  1. to become lighter or less dark; brighten: The sky lightened after the storm.
  2. to brighten or light up, as the eyes or features: Her face lightened when she heard the good news.
  3. to flash as or like lightning (often used impersonally with it as subject): It thundered and lightened for hours.
  4. Archaic. to shine, gleam, or be bright: steel blades lightening in the sun.
verb (used with object)
  1. to give light to; illuminate: A full moon lightened the road.
  2. to brighten (the eyes, features, etc.): A large smile lightened his face.
  3. to make lighter or less dark: Add white to lighten the paint.
  4. Obsolete. enlighten.
  5. Obsolete. to flash or emit like lightning (usually followed by out, forth, or down): eyes that lightened forth implacable hatred.

Origin of lighten

1300–50; Middle English lightnen; see light1, -en1
Related formslight·en·er, noun


verb (used with object)
  1. to make lighter in weight: to lighten the load on a truck.
  2. to lessen the load of or upon: to lighten a cargo ship.
  3. to make less burdensome or oppressive; alleviate; mitigate: to lighten taxes; to lighten someone's cares.
  4. to cheer or gladden: Such news lightens my heart.
verb (used without object)
  1. to become less severe, stringent, or harsh; ease up: Border inspections have lightened recently.
  2. to become less heavy, cumbersome, burdensome, oppressive, etc.: His worries seem to have lightened somewhat.
  3. to become less gloomy; perk up: People's spirits usually lighten when spring arrives.

Origin of lighten

1350–1400; Middle English lightnen; see light2, -en1

Synonyms for lighten

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Antonyms for lighten Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lighten

Contemporary Examples of lighten

Historical Examples of lighten

  • But at that moment an inspiration came to lighten the gloom.

  • After a short consultation it was determined to lighten the ship.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Perhaps together we might lighten the weight of it a little.

  • He had done all that he could on the journey to lighten the labor of those attached to his own wagon.

  • That it might be able to lighten the burden of this self-imposed labour.

British Dictionary definitions for lighten


  1. to become or make light
  2. (intr) to shine; glow
  3. (intr) (of lightning) to flash
  4. (tr) an archaic word for enlighten


  1. to make or become less heavy
  2. to make or become less burdensome or oppressive; mitigate
  3. to make or become more cheerful or lively
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 lighten

"to make less heavy," figuratively "to make cheerful," mid-14c., from light (adj.1) + -en (1). Related: Lightened; lightening.


"shed light upon, illuminate, brighten," early 14c., from light (n.) -en (1). Meaning "to grow brighter" is late 14c. Of faces, expressions, etc., from 1795. Related: Lightened; lightening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper