Word of the Day


© Getty Images
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


to sparkle

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The verb scintillate comes from the Latin ‘scintillare’, to send out sparks, related to ‘scintilla’, a spark. It was first used in English in the 17th century.


The verb scintillate is generally seen today in the adjectival form ‘scintillating‘ which means very impressive, interesting or clever. The other forms of the verb are infrequent, so that while you can say that someone or something scintillates or scintillated, meaning that they – figuratively – sparkled, it is unusual to do so. It is even more unusual to use the verb literally, but it is possible: see the examples below. The noun scintilla is still used in English, generally with a meaning that is quite far removed from its origins; it means a very small amount, and is most often used in conjunction with nouns like ‘evidence’ and ‘doubt’. Scintillate is a very recent submission to our crowdsourced Open Dictionary from a user in the UK. You can submit an entry here.


The script scintillates, and the performance captivates, from start to finish.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

Camp out by the mesmerizing Pangong Lake, that scintillates with a million shades of blue.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

He conducted himself with grace and dignity. His brilliant mind scintillated and dazzled the world, as usual.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

Related words

flash, gleam, glint, sparkle

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment