Word Confusion: Lightening versus Lightning

Posted November 9, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I’ve been seeing this confusion quite a bit recently and I’m never quite sure if the character or situation is using bleach or surviving a storm. Of course, I suppose they could be getting a hair treatment…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Lightening Lightning
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Church festooned with lights for the holidays

Image by Micheal Scofield is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Saint Cajetan, the parish church in Hamrun, Malta, is lightened up for San Gejtanu’s feast.

Lightning bolt over a town

Image by U.S. Air Force photo by Edward Aspera, Jr. is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lightning over Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Part of Grammar:
Present participle of the present tense verb lighten

Noun 1, 2;
Verb 2, intransitive 1, & transitive

Third person present verb: lightens
Past tense or past participle: lightened
Gerund or Present participle: lightening

Adjective; Noun; Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun: lightnings
Past tense or past participle: lightninged
Gerund or present participle: lightning

Drop in the level of the uterus during the last weeks of pregnancy as the head of the fetus engages in the pelvis

Make lighter in weight

Make brighter or lighter in color

Misspelling of “lightning”

Verb, intransitive:
Make or become lighter in weight, pressure, or severity 2

  • Make or become more cheerful or less serious

Make or become lighter or brighter 1

Verb, transitive:
Make or become lighter in weight, pressure, or severity 2

  • Make or become more cheerful or less serious
  • [Archaic] Enlighten spiritually
Very quick

Occurrence of a natural electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud, accompanied by a bright flash and typically, also thunder

  • [Literary] A flash or discharge of lightning

Emit or discharge of the sky

Henri is lightening my hair color tomorrow.

Getting rid of these heavy drapes will lighten up the room.

Verb, intransitive:
The strain had lightened.

Robbie felt her spirits lighten a little.

The sky began to lighten in the east

It was a lightening of her burden.

Verb, transitive:
Efforts were made to lighten the burden of regulation.

She attempted a joke to lighten the atmosphere.

She had lightened her hair.

Now the Lord lighten thee, thou art a great fool.

The bleach was lightening the fabric.

A lightning cure for his hangover.

It happened at lightning speed.

Lightning can hurt or kill if it hits.

You know what they say, lightning never strikes twice in the same place.

The lightning is so bright, it’s lightening up the night sky.

Hoo, boy, that boy is fast as greased lightning.

The sky was a mass of black cloud out of which lightnings flashed.

That Bessie Mae still got that white lightning a’ her’n?

What’s a person to do when it starts to lightning?

If it starts to lightning, we’d better go inside.

Noun: lightener
History of the Word:
1 Mid-14th century as a verbal noun meaning the shedding of light.

2 1520s from lighten meaning alleviation of weight (literal and figurative).

Middle English was when lightening evolved into lightning. Today lightening would be considered a misspelling.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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