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Lightening or Lightning?

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between lightening and lightning?

Lightening means to make something lighter (in colour or weight).
  • I'm lightening the bathroom with the leftover white paint.
Lightning is the flash of light followed by thunder during a storm.
  • Did you see that fork of lightning?

Lightening or Lightning?

Writers are often confused between lightening and lightning due to their similar sounds and spellings.

Lightening

The word lightening comes from the verb to lighten. It means to make something paler in color () / colour () or to reduce something in weight.

Examples:
  • I had to throw away my dress after my failed attempt at lightening it.
  • Lightening the sacks will help us move the corn more quickly.
You will also see lightening being used figuratively. For example:
  • Making jokes is my brother's way of lightening the mood.
(Note: Lightening is the present participle of the verb to lighten.)

Lightning

The noun lightning is often seen in the term thunder and lightning. In other words, lightning denotes a flash of light caused by the discharge of electricity in the atmosphere.

Examples:
  • Thunder is good. Thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work. (Mark Twain)
  • Electricity is really just organized lightning. (George Carlin)
Quick Test