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#139922 - 02/20/05 08:16 AM Let there be light
Father Steve Offline
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Registered: 09/06/00
Posts: 2788
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA
In another thread, Of Troy sez: "It didn't open but was positioned on south facing wall of the house, and illuminated the room it was in."

It occurs to me that I used the verb "illumine" and the verb "illuminate" pretty much indiscriminately. I'm not talking about what monks do to manuscripts here. I am talking about the light thing. What, if any, are the differences between these two verbs?

#139923 - 02/20/05 10:49 AM Re: Let there be light
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
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AHD seems to think they're mostly synonymous but illuminate might could be a little more broad ranging in meaning. They both derive from the same Latin verb, illuminare and would seem to be prime candidates for prescrip venom, but you hardly ever hear illumine so maybe that's why you never hear anybody complaining about illuminate.



#139924 - 02/20/05 11:28 AM Re: Let there be light
plutarch Offline

Registered: 10/10/01
Posts: 1385
It occurs to me that I used the verb "illumine" and the verb "illuminate" pretty much indiscriminately. --- What, if any, are the differences between these two verbs?

I can't be sure about this, Father Steve. But it occurs to me that something which "illumines" draws us to the light source itself.

On the other hand, something which "illuminates", casts its light, perhaps so widely and evenly that we are not immediately, or at least primarily, aware of the source of the light.

I'm really just stumbling in the dark here, Father Steve. :)

BTW your lead "Let there be light" got me to wondering if "illumine" has any special meaning in a theological sense. My search turned up the new interactive "Illumina" bible which might interest you if you haven't already checked it out:

"Mr. Laughlin is a distinguished Staley Lecturer and maintains an active touring schedule of theaters, conferences, colleges, and houses of worship. His voice can be heard as the narrator for Tyndale Publishing's Illumina, the first interactive fully animated Bible, being introduced this fall on DVD, and Good News Publishers brand new English Standard Version Bible, an audio-book also due out this year. He also provides the narration for The Scriptorium: Center for Biblical Antquities, a thematic museum that chronicles the history of the Bible, at The Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida."


Also, here is an interesting discussion which invites comparison between the word luminosity and luminescence. It also introduces the term electroluminescence.

Prelim Aside: It occurs to me that something which is "luminous" could be said to "illumine", but one would not say it "illuminates".

A fluorescent light illuminates. Something with
"luminescence", like "electroluminescence", illumines.*

Rachel's research explores electronically reactive, light emitting surfaces as a form of visual communication in built spaces. The flat light source, electroluminescence is applied to traditional interior textiles in order to create sensed environments and with the use programming and sensors surfaces can be made responsive to their surroundings, providing a visual and luminous reflection of its environment. One of the key concerns is how light can be used to relieve the problems of sufferers of seasonal affect disorder, SAD, as the absence of daylight can cause severe medical problems. Light has a profound impact on our emotional and physiological being and by integrating illumination into our everyday objects and surfaces we can enhance our lives for a sense of well being. Work is created that visually illustrate the constant dialogue that occurs between our environment and its materiality. Biomimetics and growth are key elements alongside a strong reference to a textile heritage and its possible new role.


* Aha! I think I have it. Someone with "charisma" illumines [with their presence]. [It comes from within. And it also carries the theological significance I was looking for.] They do not illuminate.

From Dictionary.com: [Greek kharisma, divine favor, from kharizesthai, to favor, from kharis, favor. See gher-2 in Indo-European Roots.]


#139925 - 02/20/05 11:29 AM Re: Let there be light
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
good point, David. the parallel to orientate is illuminating. (but I still prefer "to orient" myself.)

I don't think I've ever used, or heard, illumine.

#139926 - 02/21/05 03:54 PM Re: Let there be light
Wordwind Offline
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Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
There are also luminate (obs.) and illume (not obs.).

#139927 - 02/21/05 05:17 PM Re: Let there be light
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
somewhat surprisingly, illume is given by OED as "a poetical shortening of illumine"; whereas illumine and illuminate both stemmed from L. illuminare.

illumine is actually cited first, but in a form that looks suspiciously like a hybrid:

Illumynit our with orient skyis brycht.

#214396 - 03/06/14 02:27 AM Re: Let there be light [Re: Father Steve]
Mercur10 Offline

Registered: 03/06/14
Posts: 2
Loc: Victoria, Australia
This is an interesting question. My thoughts are as follows:
'Illumine' is used in a literary metaphorical sense, more in the way of 'to enlighten', referring to the light of understanding.
'To illuminate' is better used in the material sense of a light source illuminating or lighting an environment.
However, 'illuminating' as an adjective is often used to describe a discussion that made a topic clearer and more readily understood. This type of intellectual comprehension is not the same as the spiritual or moral growth resulting from an enlightening realisation that has illumined the mind.
In writing, after clarifying the context, the word 'illumination' can be used to describe spiritual enlightenment, as distinct from the temporary, switch-on-switch-off event of mechanical illumination.


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