From Middle English monelight, monelicht, from Old English mōnan lēoht (moonlight, literally moon's light, light of the moon). Equivalent to moon +‎ light. Compare Scots munelicht, muinlicht, West Frisian moanneljocht, Dutch maanlicht, German Mondlicht.


  • (US) enPR: mo͞on'līt, IPA(key): /ˈmunˌlaɪt/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: moon‧light


moonlight (usually uncountable, plural moonlights)

  1. (sometimes attributive) The light reflected from the Moon.
    • c. 1387, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Tale of Sir Thopas in The Canterbury Tales,[1]
      His bridle as the sunne shone,
      Or as the moonelight.
    • c. 1595, William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II, Scene 1[2]
      If you will patiently dance in our round
      And see our moonlight revels, go with us;
      If not, shun me, and I will spare your haunts.
    • c. 1596, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene 1,[3]
      How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
      Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
      Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
      Become the touches of sweet harmony.
    • 1751, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, Chapter 24,[4]
      [] the sight of the blade which glistened by moonlight in his face, checked, in some sort, the ardour of his assailant []
    • 1798, William Wordworth, “The Idiot Boy,” lines 1-4,[5]
      ’Tis eight o’clock,—a clear March night,
      The moon is up,—the sky is blue,
      The owlet, in the moonlight air,
      Shouts from nobody knows where;
    • 1830, Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Ballad of the Oysterman,” lines 5-6,[6]
      It was the pensive oysterman that saw a lovely maid,
      Upon a moonlight evening, a-sitting in the shade;
    • 1849, Currer Bell [pseudonym; Charlotte Brontë], chapter 13, in Shirley. A Tale. [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), London: Smith, Elder and Co., [], OCLC 84390265:
      She passed away noiselessly, and the moonlight kissed the wall which her shadow had dimmed.
    • 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae, Chapter 12,[7]
      [] What say you, gentlemen, shall we have a moonlight hunt?”
    • 1897, Bram Stoker, Dracula, Chapter 3,[8]
      The windows were curtainless, and the yellow moonlight, flooding in through the diamond panes, enabled one to see even colours, whilst it softened the wealth of dust which lay over all and disguised in some measure the ravages of time and the moth.
    • 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Chapter 6,[9]
      They were still under the white plum tree and their faces were touching except for a pale thin ray of moonlight between.
    • 1937, J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Del Rey, 1982, Chapter 16, p. 272,[10]
      It was as if a globe had been filled with moonlight and hung before them in a net woven of the glint of frosty stars.
    • 1957, Sylvia Dee, “Moonlight Swim” (song recorded by Nick Noble and Elvis Presley),[11]
      Let’s go on a moonlight swim
      Far away from the crowd
      All alone upon the beach
      Our lips and our arms
      Close within each other’s reach
      Will be on a moonlight swim
    • 1958, Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, London: William Heinemann, Chapter 2,
      On a moonlight night it would be different. The happy voices of children playing in open fields would then be heard. And perhaps those not so young would be playing in pairs in less open places, and old men and women would remember their youth.


Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.



moonlight (third-person singular simple present moonlights, present participle moonlighting, simple past and past participle moonlighted)

  1. To work on the side (at a secondary job), often in the evening or during the night.
  2. (by extension) To engage in an activity other than what one is known for.
  3. (by extension, of an inanimate object) To perform a secondary function substantially different from its supposed primary function, as in protein moonlighting.
  4. (Britain, dated) To carry out undeclared work.

Usage notesEdit

In American English, to moonlight is simply to work at secondary employment;[1] in British English, it used to imply working secretly (i.e. not paying tax on the extra money earned), but more recent editions of some UK dictionaries no longer differentiate between the US and UK meaning; in both, legality of moonlighting is thus qualified with adjectives.[2]

Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ Mish, Drederick C. (ed.). 1995. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.
  2. ^ Treffry, Diana (ed.). 1999. Collins Paperback English Dictionary. 4th ed. Glasgow: HarperCollins.