Posted by: Jack Henry | September 25, 2017

Editors Corner: Lightning and Lightening

One of our readers noticed that people have a tendency to mix up the words lightning and lightening. In todays post, I hope to enlighten you about the difference between the two words and provide a tip for spelling them correctly.

First, here are some definitions (from Merriam-Webster):

lightning: the flashing of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity

lighten: to make light or clear : ILLUMINATE

With some commonly confused words, the similarities are coincidental. However, lightning and lightening are closely related. Both words come from the Middle English word lightenen (also spelled lihtenen). Its easy to see the connectiona flash of lightning lightens the sky.

I know that Editors Corner readers like mnemonics. I couldnt find any good ones for lightning and lightening, so I made my own. I hope it helps.

Tip: Lightning strikes quickly, so write lightning as quickly as possible (by leaving out the letter E).

The word lightening can also refer to reducing the weight of something. In this case, the similarity between light (not dark) and light (not heavy) does seem to be a coincidence.

Although both words come from Old English loht (also spelled lht), if you trace them farther back, light (meaning not dark) is similar to Latin lux (light), and light (meaning not heavy) is similar to Latin levare (to raise).

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar
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619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

Symitar Documentation Services

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