Lightening or Lightning?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Lightening" and "Lightning"?

"Lightening" and "Lightning" are easy to confuse because they sound so similar (i.e., they are nearly homonyms). However, their meanings are quite different.
  • Lightening. "Lightening" means to make something lighter (in color/colour or weight). For example:
    • I'm lightening the bathroom with the leftover white paint.
  • Lightning. "Lightning" is the flash of light followed by thunder during a storm. For example:
    • Did you see that fork of lightning?
lightening or lightning

More about Lightening and Lightning

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

Listen to how they are pronounced:


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

Example sentences with "lightening":
  • 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.")


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.

Example sentences with "lightning":
  • Thunder is good. Thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does the work. (Writer Mark Twain)
  • Electricity is really just organized lightning. (Comedian George Carlin)

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? Jewelry and jewellery List of easily confused words

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