Podcast scintillate

Printable Version
Pronunciation: sin-tê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To sparkle, to flash, to glitter; to emit sparks. 2. To be lively, witty, and very brilliant.

Notes: This is a beautiful word with a beautiful family. Of course, we find the usual adjective, scintillating, and noun, scintillation. However, alongside these, we have an adjective and noun even more exquisite: scintillescent and scintellescence. Don't forget to write the silent C after the initial S and to double up on the Ls.

In Play: Twinkle, twinkle, little sparkler.Today's Good Word is the substitute you need when sparkle simply does not say it all: "Their house was high on a hill below which the city scintillated all night long." Remember, too, that wit at its best can also scintillate: "It was a perfect evening of scintillating conversation in a room overlooking a scintillescent city below." Lord Robert Bulwer-Lytton (better known for his Last Days of Pompeii) deftly used this word in his description of the moon and a star in his narrative poem, Lucile (1860): "one pale, /Minute, scintillescent, and tremulous star /Swinging under her globe like a wizard-lit car. . . ."

Word History: This very Good Word comes from Latin scintillare "to spark, sparkle". As usual, we use the past participle, scintillatus, for our verb. The verb is based on another Latin word that we swallowed whole: scintilla "spark". We often use this word as a synonym for iota, "There isn't a scintilla of truth in what she says." However, remember it really refers to a spark, "Cyril didn't bring a scintilla of wit that might have brightened the conversation." (We are not surprised that this word was suggested by a scintillating conversationalist in the Agora, Katy Brezger, somewhere out there in Michigan.)

Dr. Goodword,

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