Word: incandescent

Pronunciation: in-kən-DE-sənt

Part of Speech: adjective


  1. emitting light as a result of being heated
  2. passionate or brilliant
  3. extremely angry

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

I hope you like words with multiple definitions, because I certainly do. Here’s a particularly interesting one of which I was recently reminded when someone I know used it in conversation. There was no way I could leave it out of my vocabulary list, not just because I enjoy learning words with more than one meaning, but because I also like adjectives that have to do with light and/or emotions.

An “incandescent” object emits light when heated, while an “incandescent” person or action is passionate or enraged. The word comes from the Latin verb incandescere, meaning “to glow” or “to be heated”. This verb is comprised of the prefix in- (denoting intensive force) and the verb candescere “to become white”.

Most of my encounters with this adjective have been in its concrete sense; I was reading about “incandescent” lightbulbs in my grade school Science textbooks long before I ever thought the same word could be used to describe people. Having said that, I think it makes for a great poetic alternative for describing intense emotions, and it’s definitely one I should try to work into my writing more often. Whether you choose to write about blazing lights or acts of passion, “incandescent” can be an excellent word to add a fiery touch to your stories! Good luck!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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