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All of these words originate from Old English, where the prefix 'gl-' appears to have been a form of visual-onomatopoeia, in allusion to the fleeting reflection of light seen by the eye. The words 'glim' and 'glimpse' are part of the same etymological group and relate to illuminating and viewing things.

The word 'glim' had many and various meanings in Old English, but has now fallen from use, largely because the lexicon has grown and diversified. Thus, we now have a group of distinct but related words.