Lightening or Lightning?

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 (small American flag) / colour (small British flag) or to reduce something in weight.

Example sentences with "lightening":
  • I had to throw away my dress after my failed attempt at lightening it. correct tick
  • Lightening the sacks will help us move the corn more quickly. correct tick
You will also see "lightening" being used figuratively. For example:
  • Making jokes is my brother's way of lightening the mood. correct tick
(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. correct tick (Writer Mark Twain)
  • Electricity is really just organized lightning. correct tick (Comedian George Carlin)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.