Definition of illuminate in English:



  • 1[with object] Light up.

    ‘a flash of lightning illuminated the house’
    figurative ‘his face was illuminated by a smile’
    • ‘When the lights flashed it illuminated the sky and the whole area.’
    • ‘Great flashes of light illuminated the whole area, punctuated by the rumbling of thunder clouds.’
    • ‘That day, it was the interior's turn to be brilliantly illuminated - by fluorescent lights carried up to the rafters by remote-controlled helium balloons.’
    • ‘The sun's morning light shone softly, illuminating her blue eyes.’
    • ‘A green fluorescent light illuminates a wall work that quotes the iconic graphic equaliser readout in homage to Donald Judd.’
    • ‘Seems its only presence to the passing motorist is a narrow entrance road and a sign which wasn't illuminated.’
    • ‘The heads will face one another topped with a helmet and lamp from which beams of light will illuminate the carriageways.’
    • ‘Then a storm begins, and the flashes of lightning briefly and beautifully illuminate a tree waving in the wind outside the window.’
    • ‘A great flash of lightning illuminated the world outside, showing the trees dark against the night sky.’
    • ‘Lightning flashed, illuminating the dark hollow face of a single man.’
    • ‘At the top of the last little bump, they could see the shoulder-high summit sign illuminated by the first light of day.’
    • ‘A golden light was shining down illuminating Isabelle's face.’
    • ‘He said oversized and illuminated signs were not appropriate in the area.’
    • ‘The next town was Boyes, just 29 km down the road and as we rode towards it we saw flashes of lightning illuminate the horizon.’
    • ‘At the moment, in the third window down, a light shone brightly, illuminating a small patch of the garden below.’
    • ‘The lightning flashes illuminated the pastor's face.’
    • ‘All movement was eradicated as a brilliant flash of blue-orange light illuminated their horrified faces.’
    • ‘A flash of light briefly illuminated the hallway, pouring through the broken window and burning their eyes.’
    • ‘Overheard the sun shone brightly, illuminating the garden with a brilliant ray of light.’
    • ‘Kentis elects not to use artificial lighting, so the only time we see the characters is when a flash of lightning illuminates them and the sharks that are circling them.’
    light, light up, throw light on, cast light upon, brighten, make brighter, shine on, flood with light, floodlight, irradiate
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    1. 1.1Decorate (a building or structure) with lights for a special occasion.
      • ‘As the season approaches the countryside and towns light up and outlines of houses buildings and churches are illuminated.’
      • ‘During this period, the minarets of all the mosques are illuminated with strings of electric lights.’
      • ‘On Diwali 1619 the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights to welcome home and celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment in Gwalior fort.’
      • ‘It appealed to the citizens of Bangalore to decorate and illuminate their houses and shops, feed the poor and offer prayers for the long life and prosperity of the Maharaja.’
      • ‘During the Lantern Festival, most temples are illuminated by colorful lanterns of all shapes and sizes.’
  • 2Decorate (a page or initial letter in a manuscript) with gold, silver, or coloured designs.

    • ‘Large illuminated letters became popular with the advent of hand-written manuscripts and official documents.’
    • ‘Yet a current show there, on one of the grandest of all illuminated manuscripts, does both.’
    • ‘He is a fine late Romanesque painter open to more modern influences, particularly those emanating from Byzantium, perhaps via Franciscan illuminated manuscripts.’
    • ‘Two different worlds present themselves to the scholar of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts from Spain.’
    • ‘Thus, the museum began to acquire European sculpture and old master drawings and purchased an important collection of medieval and renaissance illuminated manuscripts.’
    decorate, illustrate, embellish, adorn, ornament, enhance, emblazon, highlight
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  • 3Help to clarify or explain.

    ‘a most illuminating discussion’
    • ‘Stark's discussion is lively, pointed and frequently illuminating.’
    • ‘The two books provide detailed but clear legislative history while illuminating the changing political process and values of the postwar West.’
    • ‘The commentary is particularly illuminating.’
    • ‘Their results were paradoxical and their discussion illuminating.’
    • ‘The discussion is often illuminating: for example, the discussion of the divine king, or of the marginalization of royal women in Benin.’
    • ‘Like the rescue workers there, one waded in trying to find something that was alive, that would illuminate and explain what had happened.’
    • ‘Though MacDonald's discussion of this topic is interesting and illuminating, it left me unconvinced.’
    • ‘The text ends on page 710, the rest consisting of notes and index, and while the notes are sharp and illuminating, some of them amount to mini-essays.’
    • ‘Of this central Lockean teaching and Zuckert's meticulous and illuminating discussions of it, we hear not one word from Prof. Mitchell.’
    • ‘Fellow blogger and super-cute Darian had some very funny, illuminating and revealing stories about the film he was currently working on.’
    • ‘I would like to thank him for illuminating discussions and for sending a manuscript prior to publication.’
    • ‘That last incident is particularly illuminating.’
    • ‘Even here, in the first chapter, the reader is treated to probing analysis and illuminating discussion.’
    • ‘There is even the promise of positive theory, exemplified in a brief but illuminating discussion of Likert's notions of effective hierarchies.’
    • ‘Arf contributed to the education of many of the present day mathematicians in Turkey, not only by his lectures but also through illuminating discussions in conferences and seminars.’
    • ‘He does so clearly, often illuminating the topic with discussion of classical texts.’
    • ‘All of these essays are clear, well documented, and illuminating.’
    • ‘Cross-cultural research can help illuminate and clarify the social and developmental differences that exist across various cultures.’
    • ‘Questions were asked about black box, flight paths, crashes, missile technology, etc., and the answers were illuminating.’
    • ‘The editors emphasize making tacit knowledge itself explicit, rather than illuminating the process of creating and using valuable tacit knowledge.’
    clarify, elucidate, explain, reveal, make clear, shed light on, cast light on, give insight into, clear up
    informative, enlightening, revealing, explanatory, instructive, instructional, helpful, educational, educative, edifying, rewarding, enriching
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Late Middle English: from Latin illuminat- illuminated, from the verb illuminare, from in- upon + lumen, lumin- light.