Lightening vs. lightning

Lightening is a present participle corresponding to the verb lighten, where to lighten is to make light or lighter. For example, we might say that a person who has been losing weight is lightening, or that an aging man’s hair is lightening to gray.

Lightning refers to an abrupt, discontinuous natural electric discharge in the atmosphere—i.e., the flash of light associated with thunder.



Besides lightening the mood with bright colours, fun shapes and pretty patterns, they provide endless entertainment for kids—and me. [Hanna Herald]

How’s about lightening up on the young man and get back to top-rated journalism. [letter to The Union of Grass Valley]

And this is hardly the first time Beyonce’s faced criticism for lightening her hair. [The Stir]


A Jet Blue crew said a plane headed to Logan Airport was struck by lightning Friday. [WCVB]

The game opened with the teams exchanging lightning-fast 80-yard touchdown drives. [Plain Dealer]

2 thoughts on “Lightening vs. lightning”

  1. I frequently hear people using “lightning” as a verb during episodes of bad weather. I would never write it this way, but it seems to be a rather common colloquialism here in Texas.

    “Y’all kids need to come inside, it’s lightning out there!”

    • Obviously a regionalism. I’ll refrain from suggesting that it comes from the dumbing down (there’s a phrase to play with, Mr. Grammarist) of school textx by the state’s Department of so-called Education.

      Actually, I won’t refrain – but the two issues are most likely directly unrelated.


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