Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
September 19th, 2015
Episode 324 of 758 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 19, 2015 is: incandescent \in-kun-DESS-unt\ adjective 1 a : white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat b : marked by brilliance especially of expression c : characterized by glowing zeal : ardent 2 a : of, relating to, or being light produced by incandescence b : producing light by incandescence Examples: The attic was lit by a single incandescent bulb, but that was all the light we needed to read the labels on the storage boxes. "Anyone who's ever perused books of late-19th-century British art will instantly recognize the idyllic image of a young woman in a sheer, incandescent orange dress curled up in sleep on piles of drapery on a marble bench, with a sunstruck Mediterranean in the distance." Ken Johnson, The New York Times, 11 June 2015 Did you know? Incandescent came into the English language toward the end of the 18th century, at a time when scientific experiments involving heat and light were being conducted on an increasingly frequent basis. An object that glowed at a high temperature (such as a piece of coal) was "incandescent." By the mid-1800s, the incandescent lampa.k.a. the lightbulbhad been invented; it contains a filament which gives off light when heated by an electric current. Incandescent is the modern offspring of a much older parent, the Latin verb candēre, meaning "to glow." Centuries earlier, the word for another source of light, candle, was also derived from candēre.