Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Dec 11, 2007
This week's theme
Whose what?

This week's words
busman's holiday
friar's lantern
curate's egg
widow's peak
shank's mare

A.Word.A.Day on your site
Add the daily word to your web page. It is free.
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
with Anu Garg

friar's lantern

(FRY-uhrz LAN-tuhrn) Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

noun: A phosphorescent light seen over marshy ground at night, caused by spontaneous combustion of gases emitted by decomposing organic matter. A synonym is foxfire (not Firefox), especially for luminescence produced by fungi.

[The first use of the term is in John Milton's 1632 poem L'Allegro: "She was pinched and pulled, she said; / And he, by Friar's lantern led."]

"Question: What do you get when you cross a firefly with a tobacco plant.
Answer: A cigarette that lights itself.
The joke quickly made the rounds after a group of genetic engineers in California earlier this month announced that they had transferred into the cells of a tobacco plant the gene that causes a firefly to glow. The tobacco plant seems to rise out of the page like a will-o'-the-wisp or friar's lantern."
Chet Raymo; A Tale of a Firefly and a Tobacco Leaf; The Boston Globe; Nov 24, 1986.

See more usage examples of friar's lantern in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. -John Ruskin, author, art critic, and social reformer (1819-1900)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2023 Wordsmith