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Incandescent: WordWednesdayFun

Incandescent is maybe a word often used in a tired cliche – “he was incandescent with rage.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have seen that or heard it said. I chose dollar rather than my native £ because soon it may be worth more!

Blame the EU Referendum for that. On that subject, or rather the referendum and the value of the £, I received an email this morning from the TransferWise people. It informed me they were suspending international money transfers until after the referendum owing to the volatility of the £. It’s all a bit of a nuisance. Nay! It could be a problem for me seeing most of my income is paid in currency bearing H.M. The Queen’s portrait.

But there is nothing I can do about it so that is why I am certainly not incandescent with rage 🙂

Let’s go to Merriam-Webster.

Simple Definition
: white or glowing because of great heat
: producing bright light when heated
: very impressive, successful, or intelligent

Full Definition
a : white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat
b : strikingly bright, radiant, or clear
c : marked by brilliance especially of expression <incandescent wit>
d : characterized by glowing zeal : ardent <incandescent affection>
a : of, relating to, or being light produced by incandescence
b : producing light by incandescence
incandescently adverb

Examples in a sentence
<sitting in darkness, except for the incandescent coals of our campfire>
<a speaker incandescent with righteous anger over the treatment of the refugees>

Did You Know?

Incandescent came into the English language toward the end of the 18th century, at a time when scientific experiments involving heat and light were being conducted on an increasingly frequent basis. An object that glowed at a high temperature (such as a piece of coal) was “incandescent.” By the mid-1800s, the incandescent lamp – a.k.a. the “lightbulb” – had been invented; it contains a filament which gives off light when heated by an electric current. “Incandescent” is the modern offspring of a much older parent, the Latin verb candēre, meaning “to glow.” Centuries earlier, the word for another source of light, “candle,” was also derived from “candēre.”

Origin and Etymology
probably from French, from Latin incandescent-, incandescens, present participle of incandescere to become hot, from in- + candescere to become hot, from candēre to glow — more at candid

First Known Use: 1794

And this is the pick of the Facebook comments left on the M-W page:

Kelley Anderson · Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Used in the Kiera Knightly movie version of Pride and Prejudice. Since electric lights were not in regular use at the time period and this was a line not from the book I wanted to see when this word first came into use to see if this was historically appropriate. It is close enough. The world is safe again for Austen geeks like me. 🙂
Like · Reply · Jul 19, 2013 4:05am

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Published inWord Wednesday Fun


  1. G G


    The only association I had with the use of incandescent was with light or heat.
    Strange it’s associated with anger – ??? How can you see incandescent anger in someone? Does their face turn flaming hot or glow like fire or a bright light?
    Now, I can see ‘pissed off’ in someone’s face 🙂 Guess I’ve never pissed anyone off enough to see them incandescent. Hmmm, should I add that to my bucket list? LOL

    • Adam, who is Canadian, was more or less saying the same thing. It must be a North American thing! Two great peoples separated by a common language 🙂

  2. Adam Lawrence Adam Lawrence

    I tend to associate that word with concrete description (light bulbs and so forth); to be honest, I don’t hear that analogy made that often, but I can imagine it becoming annoying.

  3. Maria Holm Maria Holm

    I learnt a new word. Thank you Steve but I believe things will turn out fine for the U.K. when the big waves have calmed down again

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