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From Latin lambēns, present participle of lambō (lick).



lambent (comparative more lambent, superlative most lambent)

  1. Brushing or flickering gently over a surface.
    • 1800, William Cowper, The Task, Book VI: "The Winter Walk at Noon", Poems, J. Johnson, page 232,
      No foe to man / Lurks in the ſerpent now: the mother ſees, / And ſmiles to ſee, her infant's playful hand / Stretch'd forth to dally with the creſted worm, / To ſtroke his azure neck, or to receive / The lambent homage of his arrowy tongue.
    • 1977, Stephen R. Donaldson, Lord Foul’s Bane, page 77
      “As they walked together between the houses, Lena’s smooth arm brushed his. His skin felt lambent at the touch.”
  2. Glowing or luminous, but lacking heat.
    The lambent glow of fireflies delighted the children.
    • 1839, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jonathan Birch (translator), Faust: A Tragedy, Black and Armstrong, page 127,
      The Witch, with much ceremony, fills the basin. As FAUST is about to raise it to his lips, it emits a clear flame.
      MEPHISTOPHELES. Quick! quickly down with it!—no breathing time allowed! […] And does a lambent flame prevent thee quaff?
    • 1984, Edward Abbey, Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside‎, page 192:
      the lambent glowing light of the midnight sun. (I dislike that word lambent, but it must be employed.) A soft, benevolent radiance, you might say, playing upon the emerald green, the virgin swales of grass and moss and heather and Swede heads
    • 2017 July 19, Andrew Pulver, “With Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan has finally hit the heights of Kubrick”, in The Guardian[1]:
      Back in 2010 those comparisons seemed absurd: how could the writer-director of classy-but-overthought superhero movies, as well as middling oddities such as The Prestige, be seriously thought of in the same bracket as the lambent mind behind Dr Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon?
  3. (figuratively) Exhibiting lightness or brilliance of wit; clever or witty without unkindness.
    Antonyms: biting, cutting
    We appreciated her lambent comments.
    • 2016 October 31, Robert McCrum, “The 100 best nonfiction books: No 40 – The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)”, in The Guardian[2]:
      Byron was insouciant towards the risks he took. Many of his best passages are strikingly joyous and carefree, in prose that’s lambent, simple and brilliantly observed, as in this conclusion to a sunset at the shrine of Niamatullah: []


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