Lightning vs. Lightening

Did you realize that lightning and lightening have different meanings?  I used to think that either one could be used to describe the flashing light show that takes place during a thunderstorm. Then I took the time to look up the word lightening and discovered just how wrong I was.

lightning, oompa123.deviantart.com

lightning, oompa123.deviantart.com

The lesson learned? Don’t ever assume you know the complete meaning of a word until you look it up in a good dictionary.

lightning, lightening
What exactly is lightning? Lightning can be either a noun, a verb, or an adjective. As a noun, it is a bright flash of light that usually occurs during a thunderstorm and is caused by the discharge of electricity in the atmosphere. Lightning has the power to knock over trees, set things on fire, or knock out electrical power. You really do not want to get in its way.
Lightning danced nonstop across the sky during the violent thunderstorm.

Lightning over Cape Town by Waz7710, waz7710.deviantart.com

Lightning over Cape Town by Waz7710, waz7710.deviantart.com

As a verb, it means to produce flashes of light or to produce lightning.
The forecast says there will be a lot of lightning during the storms this week.

As an adjective, it describes something that resembles lightning or something that moves extremely fast.
The lightning flashes lit up the night.
With lightning speed, she cleaned up the horrendous mess.

lightening the load, talkfeeleez.typepad.com

lightening the load, talkfeeleez.typepad.com

Lightening, as a verb, has two different meanings. It means to make lighter in weight. It also means to make something lighter in color.
The truck driver focused on lightening his load so that he wouldn’t be given a ticket when he stopped at the weight station.
I will be lightening my dark-colored jeans by adding bleach to the wash.

The other definition is the one that really took me by surprise. I’ve given birth to two children, so I should have known this one. Lightening  is also a medical term that has to do with pregnancy. Basically, it is when the fetus drops into the pelvic cavity to prepare for birth.
Since the date she was due to give birth was so near, her doctor checked to see if lightening had started.

The way this medical term is pronounced was also a bit of a surprise, but you’re going to have to pull out your dictionary and look it up.

There is so much to learn about words and their meanings, about the various ways they can be used, about their different meanings, and about their history. Words are wonderful things, but some words can easily be confused with others. The challenge is to discover the meanings of these words by using your dictionary when you run across a word you are unsure about. I now use my dictionary whenever this happens.

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