Sparkling, glinting and glistening (Words related to light, Part 2)

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by Kate Woodford

Last month, we looked at words used to describe the intensity of light. This week’s post continues the light theme, looking mainly at words for light that moves, or seems to move, and areas of light.

If a light flashes, it briefly shines brightly, or it repeatedly shines on and off: Lightning flashed in the sky. / the flashing lights of a police car. A flash is a sudden, bright light that appears and then quickly disappears: a flash of lightning.

A weaker light that flickers goes on and off quickly and repeatedly, or seems to: The door opened and the lights started flickering. Something that shimmers sends out a light that seems to shake slightly, sometimes in an attractive way: She was wearing a blue-green dress that shimmered as she moved. / We drove across the desert, through the shimmering heat haze.

Some ‘shine’ verbs, such as twinkle, sparkle and glitter have positive associations.  Stars are said to ‘twinkle’, meaning that they appear to go on and off quickly: a mass of twinkling stars. ‘Twinkle’ is also used for lights that are far away: The city lights twinkled in the distance. Things that ‘sparkle’ or ‘glitter’ shine brightly, with many small points of reflected light: The sea sparkled in the sunlight. / the sparkling snow / Her necklace glittered under the spotlights.

Something, (often a small thing), that glints is something that catches the light: She spotted something glinting in the grass. It was a small, silver coin. / He grinned at her, his gold tooth glinting in the sunlight.

Other verbs are used for specific contexts. For example, something that glows produces a continuous light, usually in a dark place: A nightlight glowed dimly in the corner of the child’s bedroom. A surface that glistens shines because it is wet: His back was glistening with sweat.

Now to areas of light. A long line of light that shines from a bright object is called a beam or a shaft of light: I saw a rabbit in the beam of the car’s headlights. A circular area of light is sometimes referred to as a pool of light: One actor stands on stage in a pool of light. A halo of light is a bright circle of light around something: the halo around the moon. Finally, a  very small amount of light that shines through a crack or other small space can be called a chink: There was a chink of light under the door.


23 thoughts on “Sparkling, glinting and glistening (Words related to light, Part 2)

    1. Jabeen begum

      I haven’t known that there is actually difference between lights till now.
      Very informative with good examples which is easy to understand.

  1. A flash is also in my opinion an idea or thought that is rightfully true as well as consistent.
    I am requesting that flash can be made to show that I am being harrassed by text messages and indication of someone entering my phone number and phone converses and email ferociously and with someone’s help. That has flashed in my thoughts greatly. What does that mean?

  2. Harpreet Singh

    Thank you so much for this deep information about light with awesome vocabulary, and I went through you first part as well. I must say I’m fan of yours. 😉

  3. Alexis

    I was wondering how you refer to a beam of light reflected in the mirror and directed on different surfaces for fun, for instance, when we play with a cat. In Russia we say about playing with a sunny rabbit.

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