Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  


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)

The Gift of Time

What's the best gift of all?


Sign up to receive A.Word.A.Day in your mailbox every day.

"The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace." -The New York Times

Sponsored by:

Give the Gift of Words

Share the magic of words. Send a gift subscription of A.Word.A.Day.

Anu on Words:
Writer Magazine
Globe & Mail


Bulletin board
Wordsmith Talk

Moderated Chat
Wordsmith Chat

Readers' Voice

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

© 1994-2017 Wordsmith