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to shine with small points of reflected light

to be very lively and interesting

Origin and usage

Both the verb sparkle and the related noun have been part of English for a very long time: the first attested uses date from the 13th and 14th centuries. Both noun and verb were formed by combining the noun ‘spark’, which came from Old English, with the suffix ‘-le’, used to form diminutives of nouns as well as verbs that express repeated actions.


The etymology of sparkle makes it clear that something that sparkles seems to emit flashes of light. Indeed, typical subjects of sparkle are nouns like diamond, jewel, sapphire and crystal, as well as sunlight, sunshine and stars. The most frequent and salient collocate in our corpus, however, is ‘eyes’, which can sparkle mischievously, merrily or wickedly. Sparkle often occurs in close proximity with another similar verb such as shimmer, shine, glitter, glisten, glint, glow or twinkle, indicating its prevalence in descriptive writing.

Of course it is not only physical things that can sparkle: language can sparkle too, and a performance, a conversation or a piece of writing can be described as sparkling with wit. The noun sparkle is used in very similar ways. One of the most frequent verbs used with sparkle is ‘add’, and anything that adds sparkle to life is welcome, especially at a time of year when natural light is in short supply.


“Years steal Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb; And life’s enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim.”
(Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

“Everybody loves things that sparkle.”
(Philip Treacy)


flash, gleam, glow

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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