Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Scintillate

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is scintillate. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Scintillate means “to dazzle or impress with liveliness or wit.”

// Her hilarious and topical standup routine absolutely scintillated; the audience brought her back for two encores.


“Kimberly Marable’s scarred Persephone, torn as Hades’ consort between verdant summers above and the steamy underworld below, exudes a lust for life despite all. Her torchy vocals scintillate in ‘Livin’ It Up on Top,’ a rousing paean to seizing every moment.” — Michael Grossberg, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, 18 Nov. 2021

Did You Know?

The initial spark of the verb scintillate was the Latin noun scintilla, meaning, well, “spark.” The ember of scintilla in turn developed into the verb scintillāre, “to sparkle.” Scintillate retains this meaning in expressing the action of gleaming, glittery things, as when jewelry or the surface of a lake in full sun scintillates. But the word can and often does mean “to sparkle” in a figurative sense—that is, to dazzle or impress with a brilliant performance—making the word apt for both celestial and cinematic scintillating stars.

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