36 Adjectives Describing Light

By Mark Nichol

A bright constellation of adjectives referring to various qualities of light, or other phenomena related to light, is brought to light in the list below. Quite a few of them, from lucent to lustrous (and even illuminating), stem from the Latin word lucere, meaning “to shine,” while many others begin with the consonant gl-, betraying their descent from a proto-Germanic word with the same meaning.

1. Aureate: brilliantly golden; also, grandiloquent
2. Blinding: so bright as to obscure vision
3. Coruscating: flashing, or sparkling; also, brilliant or showy
4. Crepuscular: dim, or resembling twilight; also, said of animals active during twilight
5. Dappled: marked by spotted or patchy light; also, marks of this kind on a surface
6. Fluorescent: giving off light produced by another source of illumination
7. Glancing: intermittently flashing or gleaming
8. Gleaming: shining, radiant
9. Glimmering: faintly or unsteadily shining
10. Glinting: see gleaming; also, appearing briefly, or glancing briefly
11. Glistening: see lustrous
12. Glistering: see glittering
13. Glittering: flashing or sparkling; also brilliantly and/or superficially attractive or appealing
14. Glossy: bright on the surface; also, artificially opulent or sophisticated
15. Illuminating: bright or shining; also, highlighted or made clear
16. Incandescent: warm, glowing
17. Iridescent: rainbow colored
18. Lucent: bright, clear, or shining
19. Lucid: see lucent; also, easy to understand
20. Lucifugal: shunning light, as in the case of nocturnal animals
21. Lucifugous: see lucifugal
22. Luminescent: shining by chemical or physiological means
23. Luminous: full of light
24. Lustrous: smooth, evenly lit; also, brilliant or eminent
25. Opaque: blocking light; also, obtuse, or difficult to understand
26. Opalescent: see iridescent
27. Penumbral: partially shaded
28. Phosphorescent: continuing to glow after removal of a light source
29. Prismatic: brilliant, or resembling colors formed by passing light through a prism
30. Radiant: glowing, or radiating light
31. Resplendent: brilliant or glowing
32. Scintillating: sparking, or sparkling; also, brilliant, as said of personality
33. Shimmering: soft or wavering light or reflection
34. Spangling: see glittering
35. Spectral: made by a range of colors of the spectrum; also, ghostly
36. Translucent: diffused, or transparent

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4 Responses to “36 Adjectives Describing Light”

  • Lena

    This was en-‘light’-ening!

  • Donald Kaspersen

    There is a difference between transparent and translucent ,at least as we use it in laboratory situations. Something that is transparent allows the image on the other side of the observer to be seen plainly, even if only darkly or with enhanced light. Something that is translucent allows light to pass through but blurs or obscures the image on the other side.

    When the particles that a material is made of are smaller than the wavelength of visible light, the material is transparent. When particles are suspended in an otherwise transparent medium are larger, they impede transmission and the material becomes translucent.

  • Lan

    It seems there are many more that could be added to this list such a efulgent, vivid, brilliant . There are words that reflect light such as reflective, shiny, burnished, etc.

  • Antony John

    There is a difference between transparent and translucent ,at least as we use it in laboratory situations. Something that is transparent allows the image on the other side of the observer to be seen plainly, even if only darkly or with enhanced light. Something that is translucent allows light to pass through but blurs or obscures the image on the other side.

    When the particles that a material is made of are smaller than the wavelength of visible light, the material is transparent. When particles are suspended in an otherwise transparent medium are larger, they impede transmission and the material becomes translucent.

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