The term lightbulb moment is an idiom with an interesting origin. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying lightbulb moment, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
A lightbulb moment is a moment of sudden inspiration or a moment of realization. The invention of the lightbulb was so revolutionary, for a century the lightbulb has symbolized having an idea. Interestingly, this symbolism was first expressed in American comic strips. Felix the Cat is credited as being the first comic strip to use the lightbulb to symbolize conceiving an idea, drawn in thought bubbles linked to characters in the strip. Lightbulb is compound word and may be seen spelled variously as light bulb, light-bulb, and lightbulb. The trend may be toward becoming a closed compound word, which is one without a space or a hyphen, but the idiom may be rendered as light bulb moment, light-bulb moment, or lightbulb moment.
“It’s that lightbulb moment when a student goes ‘I know what you’re talking about, I just felt it.’ Learning comes from experience, you can’t read a book and go out and do it.” (The Gettysburg Times)
He had a “lightbulb moment” when he attempted to book a table at a bar and staff told him he couldn’t due to the government’s rule of six. (Yorkshire Evening Post)
To hear an authority figure affirm her skills in reading and writing represented a lightbulb moment for Yang; those were skills she knew would be important for college. (The Sahan Journal)