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What is the link between glitter, glint, gleam, glow, glimmer, glisten, and glare?

asked 2018-12-16 19:23:05 -0500

Lazarus gravatar image

I've read about phonesthemes, but even that doesn't seem to answer much. Does anyone here have any theories as to why all these words start with gl- but seem to be otherwise etymologically distinct?

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answered 2019-01-29 04:37:02 -0500

Gerard Cheshire gravatar image

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.

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answered 2019-02-03 20:49:11 -0500

A S Sundar gravatar image

updated 2019-02-03 20:51:30 -0500

Thank you for the good question.Here's my answer.

  • GLITTER is 'flashing intermittently but continuously' E.g. All that glitters is not gold.
  • GLINT is 'an occasional flash of light,like when you are turning an object' E.g.When I turned the stone,I noticed a glint.
  • GLEAM is'continuous shine of thin light' E.g. The gleam in his eyes could not be ignored.
  • GLOW is' flashing on and off'E.g.Glow worm
  • GLIMMER is 'light flash identifiable in any environment' E.g.Glimmering glaciers
  • GLISTEN is 'shine with a sparkling light'E.g.Her eyes were glistening with tears.
  • GLARE is 'blinding light normally uncomfortable to eyes'.E.g. High beam car light. As we read a lot of novels,we develop an instinct for right usage of these words automatically.The right word pops up in our mind then and there.Hope this helps.
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Thanks for the answer, but this is not what I meant. I know the definitions of the words, I'm wondering why they're all so similar despite seemingly not sharing an etymological root.

Lazarus gravatar imageLazarus ( 2019-02-04 10:02:01 -0500 )edit
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Asked: 2018-12-16 19:23:05 -0500

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Last updated: Feb 03